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
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.