Detroit Lions 2017 Season Preview

The Detroit Lions were arguably the NFL’s greatest enigma in 2016, as no matter how hard you tried you just could not quite figure them out. After winning a wild opening day game with Indianapolis, Matt Stafford and company proceeded to lose their next three contests, including division clashes with the Packers and Bears, dropping them to last place in the NFC North. However, from the middle of October to the middle of December they then reeled off eight wins in nine games, setting them up to potentially win their division, before collapsing down the stretch, losing their final three games and thanks to a little luck, limping into the playoffs where they proved to be a noncompetitive first round opponent for Seattle. Much of the Lions core remains intact heading into the upcoming campaign, but this team will need to find a way to be more consistent if anyone is going to take them seriously.

2016 Record: 9-7

Notable Additions: G T.J. Lang, LB Paul Worrilow, OT Rick Wagner, DE Cornelius Washington, CB D.J. Hayden, DT Akeem Spence

Notable Subtractions: WR Anquan Boldin, LB DeAndre Levy, OT Riley Reiff, G Larry Warford

Notable Rookies: LB Jarrad Davis, CB Teez Tabor, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Analysis:

The Lions may have collapsed and self destructed down the stretch last season, but you can’t really pin any of the blame for that on quarterback Matt Stafford. The University of Georgia product threw for over 4250 yards for the 6th consecutive season, and impressively put up monster numbers in the first season since losing all-pro wideout Calvin Johnson to retirement. Detroit had to spend significant free-agent dollars to address two openings on the offensive line, notably snagging veteran T.J. Lang away from the division rival Packers, but that simply had to be done to protect their franchise QB. The Lions greatest off-season need however was on defense , more specifically the pass rush, and the team is banking on the free-agent additions of Cornelius Washington and Akeem Spence significantly improving their ability to get to the quarterback. Replacing defensive captain DeAndre Levy won’t be easy but Detroit is hopeful first round pick Jarrad Davis can develop into a defensive signal caller.

Green Bay Packers 2017 Season Preview

Photo by: Mike Morbeck

The 2016 Green Bay Packers’ season will always be remembered for Aaron Rodgers urging the team’s fans to “Relax” after a blowout loss in Washington. Losing that prime time game dropped his team to 4-6 and made a playoff berth look less and less likely. Following the confidence of their perennial MVP candidate, Green Bay went on to win out, finishing 10-6, earning an NFC North divisional crown. They knocked off the Giants and Cowboys in the playoffs before falling to Atlanta in the NFC title game. Looking ahead, the Packers should again be the favorites in the North. Even if they get off to a sluggish start, as long as they have Aaron Rodgers, they always have a chance.

2016 Record: 10-6

Notable Additions: TE Martellus Bennett, G Jahri Evans, DL Ricky Jean-Francois

Notable Subtractions: RB Eddie Lacy, RB James Starks, LB Julius Peppers, CB Sam Shields, TE Jared Cook, OG T.J. Lang, OL J.C. Tretter

Notable Rookies: CB Kevin King, S Josh Jones, LB Vince Biegel, DT Montravius Adams

Analysis:

To put it as bluntly as possible, so long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, the Packers are not going away anytime soon. That is simply all you really need to know. Now it is true Green Bay’s backfield took a bit of a hit losing both Eddie Lacy and James Starks to free-agency, but the team is confident converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery is up for the challenge of being an every down back. The bigger concern on offense is probably along the line, where the loss of longtime guard T.J. Lang will leave a significant leadership role vacant. Defensively, the Packers struggled for much of last season, forcing Rodgers to attempt to win shootouts, and that trend may continue moving forward as the team’s pass rush is not going to scare anyone, Linebacker Clay Matthews has struggled to stay healthy of late, and safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix has become really the only playmaker the team has on this side of the ball. Veteran kicker Mason Crosby was extremely clutch down the stretch a year ago, particularly in the round two playoff game in Dallas. If Green Bay finds themselves in games where the last team to possess the ball may win, they believe Crosby can make the big kick needed to secure a victory.