Predicting how the Lions will do this year is a little more difficult than years past. Previously, you penciled in the Lions for three of four wins and hoped you were not being too optimistic.
I am going to write three predictions for the Lions 2011 season. Today, I am going to write about the worst-case scenario.
The one major issue facing the Lions this year is their lack of depth. Their starters can compete with anyone, but the backups are not where they need to be. This is not an indictment of the font office. There are only so many players you can bring in every year.
Three years removed from winless the 2008 winless Armageddon, it is a surprise that their starters are this good.
There are some positions where the Lions can afford an injury or two, but as has been written more than a few times this offseason, quarterback Matthew Stafford must remain relatively healthy for the Lions to have a shot at the playoffs.
Sean Hill, is the best backup quarterback in the NFC North, which means if Stafford were to get injured, the Lions will not implode. But there is a reason Hill was available for a seventh-round pick. He is not a franchise quarterback.
Stafford has shown flashes of being that guy, and if early indications from this year's preseason are true, do you think the Lions would have lost all those close games that came down to the wire last year?
Two more players are irreplaceable on offense: Jeff Backus and Calvin Johnson. The Lions have enough depth at the receiver position to overcome the loss of Johnson for a couple of games, but 6’5", 236 pounds, with 4.3 speed doesn’t happen very often.
Johnson should approach 90 receptions and 1,500 yards this season, anything else would be a disappointment.
Backus on the other hand, must remain in the lineup every game. The Lions have no one on the roster that I would trust with Matthew Stafford’s blind side.
I know that Backus is a lightning rod in this town, and the mere mention of his name invokes images of The Tigers’, check that, the Mudhens’ Brandon Inge striking out with the bases loaded, or the Wings’ Tim Cheveldae letting in another soft goal, but the reality is, he is one of the better left tackles in the league.
A lot of Lions fans are going to bring up Jahvid Best as a player the Lions can ill afford to lose, while I want to agree with you, he has not done it yet.
If you want to point to the first two games of 2010 and say that he scored five touchdowns, I will say this to you. He played a terrible game against Chicago. His final stat line read 14 carries for 20 yards.
Take away an eight-yard burst and he managed a mere 12 yards on 13 carries. He did score two touchdowns, so that makes his final stats look better, but at the end of the day, he did not get the job done in the running game.
On defense, the Lions need their back seven to stay healthy. The lack of depth there is glaring.
Both of the starting cornerbacks, Chris Houston and Eric Wright, need to play at least 15 games each. The same can be said for their trio of linebackers, DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant.
The Lions cannot afford to be hit by more than one injury at either of these spots. If they lose two linebackers or two corners at the same time, then get ready to see a defense that looks a lot like the 2010 version.
At the safety position, Eric Coleman can spell either Louis Delmas or Amari Spievey, but just as is the case with the other spots in the back seven, they Lions can’t lose both.
On the defensive line, the Lions can afford some injuries because they have really good depth at all positions. A case can be made that Ndamukong Suh is such a rare talent that he cannot be replaced, and that is true, but for a game or two, Nick Fairley and Sammy Hill can hold down the position, and the Lions defense should remain fairly stout.
Now for the worst-case scenario. If the Lions are hit hard by injuries, but Matthew Stafford is not one of those injured, the Lions record will be 7-9.
If Stafford is injured, but the defense remains stout, the Lions record will be 6-10.
If Stafford is injured, and the Lions also lose a couple of players on defense, the Lions record will be 4-12. Jim Schwartz will be on the hot seat for the first time in his career.
Come back on Wednesday to find out what I believe will be the best-case scenario for the 2011 Lions season.
On Friday, I will be giving you what my best guess as to how the Lions season will truly unfold.