6 Reasons Why the 4-0 Detroit Lions Are Not a Fluke
For the last decade, the Lions have been the laughing stock of football. After enduring a 0-16 season less than three years ago, Detroit has put themselves back on the map by starting 4-0. For the first time in over 10 years, the Lions are the talk of the league, and this time for positive reasons.
The history books have not been kind to the Lions in recent years, which includes a winless season and the longest road losing streak in history of the NFL.
After canning much maligned (that's an understatement if I've ever heard one) General Manager Matt Millen midway through the 2008 season, current GM Martin Mayhew has taken over and surrounded himself with winning personalities.
Are the 4-0 Lions for real? Or will they convert back to the Lions we all know and love, and collapse at the end of the season? Remember, this was the same franchise that started the 2007 season 6-2, before ending 7-9 and then going 0-16 the next year.
But this is a franchise under completely different management now, and this is a franchise that is on the verge of something special.
1. Calvin Johnson
We might as well start with the man they call "Megatron."
Cris Carter might not think he is elite, and Rob Ryan might think Johnson would be the third best receiver on the Cowboys, but "Megatron" is as good as it gets.
Johnson has the effect that a running back generally has on a team. When push comes to shove, the Lions and quarterback Matt Stafford will feed the ball to Johnson because he is simply the best on the field. Not since Randy Moss, in his prime, has a wide receiver been able to take over games. Stafford has the luxury to throw the ball up to Johnson, even when he is double- or triple-teamed, and letting his guy make a play on the ball.
And Calvin Johnson usually does. Detroit has been able to mount back-to-back 20-point deficits because of the firepower that Johnson brings to an explosive offense.
2. Matthew Stafford
Of course, Calvin Johnson can't get the ball without someone throwing to him.
Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton are capable backups and played well last season, but a healthy Matthew Stafford really means the world to this offense. He can make throws that most in this league simply cannot. He can lead the offense like a perennial Pro Bowler generally does.
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer stated that Stafford is the closest thing that we have to Aaron Rodgers in this league when it comes to young QBs.
With Stafford entering his third season, he has a chance to make a name for himself. In the seven games he has played the last two seasons, Stafford has passed for 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. That's quite the ratio. He has also either won those games, or left the game injured with the lead.
3. Momentum & Track Record
It's hard to imagine saying "momentum" or "track record" in a positive way to describe the Lions, but this is how much the organization has turned itself around.
The Lions have won an NFL leading eight games in a row dating back to last season. This is a team coming off of back-to-back 20-point comebacks, the first time any team has accomplished that feat in NFL history.
Perhaps most importantly, the Lions have erased their miseries on the road, and have won five straight road games, three of which this season.
Sitting with a 4-0 record, Detroit still has seven home games remaining, and Ford Field has been a tough place for opponents to play recently.
4. Titus Young
As many offensive weapons as the Lions have, Titus Young is a much-needed complement to Calvin Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
The Lions have lacked a true third receiver for years, and they drafted the Boise State receiver in the second round of this year's draft. After missing almost all of the preseason due to injury, Young was held without a catch in the team's opener in Tampa Bay.
Since then, Titus Young has become a top play maker on this team. While Nate Burleson is a crafty veteran who can turn 5 yard passes into 15, and 15-yard passes into 25, Young is the true deep threat on the team who can capitalize on the attention that Calvin Johnson gets.
In the three games since the opener, Young has posted 12 catches for 181 yards, including one spectacular diving catch in overtime against Minnesota.
5. Martin Mayhew & Jim Schwartz
With the Lions being a team so associated with losing for the past decade, a major overhaul was needed. GM Martin Mayhew has surrounded his team with tough characters, perhaps "Moneyball" type of players, and a young coach in Jim Schwartz who has challenged this team to win.
In his second season as coach, Schwartz challenged his team to win the last four games of the season, after starting 2-10. And they did just that.
It's clear that Schwartz has complete control of his locker room, and the players will constantly battle. By year's end, Schwartz will be one of the favorites to win Coach of the Year.
6. The Returns of Nick Fairley and Alphonso Smith
For those of you worrying about the defensive holding up, there is good news on the way. Detroit's No. 1 draft pick, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, should be returning any week now. It is uncertain how effective he will be at first, but this is an already dominant defensive line that focuses on a heavy rotation of players. Adding Fairley to a dynamic bunch will only help.
Cornerback Alphonso Smith also returned in Week 4. Perhaps he's not the star that Fairley is, but Smith was a starter last season for the Lions and turned in five interceptions over the season. With a shaky secondary, getting Smith back is a huge plus, if even just for depth.