Detroit Lions: 5 Hurdles to Winning the NFC North
Every year, 32 teams enter the season with optimism, hope, and a sense that this could be the year. Well actually 31 teams, at least over the past decade. The Detroit Lions, everyone's favorite punching bag, have seemed hapless and helpless for as long as one can remember. Things have changed.
With six wins last year, there is finally hope in the Motor City. The next step is to contend in the NFC North. There is a lot of talent left in the division and while the defending champs reside within the division, the Lions may roar as loudly as anyone if they can overcome a couple hurdles.
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It's the Lions. The same team that had the worst season in NFL history. The same team that saw Dan Orlovsky run out of the back of his own end zone without realizing it. The same team that drafted three bust wide receivers in a row.
There is a lot of history going against this team. They are known around the league and throughout professional sports for futility. This is something that weighs on a team, specifically one that is so young.
This team is must learn how to win. The process started last year and needs to continue this year, especially early in the season. A hot start may be all this team needs to start believing the impossible is indeed possible.
2. The Green Bay Packers
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Standing in the way of the Lions are the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. The Packers are young, talented, and experienced.
I don’t think that the Packers are unbeatable but they have the kind of attacking defense that could give the Lions some trouble. They like to come after the quarterback and considering the struggles the Lions’ offensive line has endured in recent memory, protecting Stafford will be paramount so they don't drop two to the defending champs.
3. The Secondary
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Last season the Lions allowed 219 yards per game through the air. They allowed everyone and their brother to throw the ball downfield. To take the next step forward, the ability to defend the pass will be imperative.
Whether the pieces are there is anyone’s guess. The team definitely lacks a shut down corner and any sort of depth.
There is reason to believe however. The defensive line should be as good as any, which should assist the secondary. Third year safety Louis Delmas is a playmaker back there.
The Lions will most likely be active in the free agent market as well. While landing Nnamdi Asomugha is a little far-fetched, signing somebody like Antonio Cromartie, Ike Taylor, or Jonathan Joseph would not be out of the question.
4. Lack of Experience
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While the team is long on talent, they are short on experience. Many of the offensive skill players are in their first couple years in the league. The talented duo of Fairley and Suh are in their first and second years, respectively.
While experience is not a necessity to being successful, in a division like the NFC North, it really is important. All three other teams have won and know what it takes to get the job done. If the Lions can imitate this, they will make the race a true dogfight.
It will all start with Matthew Stafford. The franchise has spent most of his time either on his backside or the sidelines injured in his young career. However, he is supremely talented and has leadership potential if he can stay on the field.
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The Lions are in a rare position. For years there has been little in the way of expectations. People in Detroit more frequently expect to be drafting in the top five.
This year is different however, as many experts think that the playoffs are not out of the question. With hype comes expectations, something that has been known to cripple a young team. There will be pressure on each player like they have never experienced.
If the Lions get off to a hot start, even more attention will come their way as it will be such a big story. The team's ability to collectively handle the added scrutiny will in effect determine the success level that they enjoy this year.
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