Earlier in the week, I wrote about what the worst-case scenario for the 2011 Detroit Lions record could be. Today I am writing about the best-case scenario.
Injuries dominated my article about the worst case, so it is obvious to assume in the best-case scenario, the Lions remain relatively healthy.
For the Lions to take a leap record wise, they need their defense to gel early.
There are only two players in the back seven who started the first game of the 2010 season, against Chicago, that are back this year, Louis Delmas and Chris Houston. DeAndre Levy came back from injury later in the season and started at MLB, and he will be on the outside this year, and Amari Spievey started some games at safety as well.
Delmas, Houston, Levi and Spievey will be joined by three new starters Justin Durant, Stephen Tulloch and Eric Wright. The key to the defense Gelling will be Tulloch. As the MLB, Tulloch will be in charge of the defensive calls.
Fortunately for the Lions, Tulloch played under head coach Jim Schwartz in Tennessee, so he already has experience in the defensive scheme.
This group of players is a substantial upgrade from the one that started the 2010 season. They should be able to make a lot of plays behind the Lions’ dominant defensive line.
Another factor in the defense will be the play of All-Pro Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh. While his ability to rush the passer from the tackle position is unmatched, he has struggled against the run.
This showed up again in the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were successful by running right at Suh. Teams have figured out that if they run away from him, he is better at helping out than if he is at the point of attack.
Hopefully this will be something he can correct before the season starts.
On offense, the Lions need to stay healthy. They bring back anyone of significance from a 2010 offense that held its own without the services of QB Matthew Stafford along with a hobbled Jahvid Best.
It appears the Lions are unhappy with the interior line play and are still looking at some options at guard. While I think the interior line will be the only thing to hold the offense back, the talent everywhere else will make up for this deficiency.
If the stars align perfectly for the Lions in 2011, and that starts with Matthew Stafford staying healthy.
The best-case scenario for the Lions is a record of 12-4, an NFC North championship, a first-round bye and an appearance in the NFC title game where they will lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champions the Atlanta Falcons.