By: Bob Wojnowski
We waited through free-agency. We waited through the draft, which was slightly controversial for the Lions. And while rosters certainly aren’t set yet, there won’t be a lot more movement.
So, let’s ask it: Are the Lions a playoff team again?
They went 10-6 a year ago and lost in the first round to the Saints. They had some huge road comebacks — at Dallas, at Minnesota — and lost some tough home games — Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta. At times, the offense looked borderline unstoppable. At times, the defense looked borderline shreddable.
Now, what are the Lions? We assume a playoff team again, right? I mean, 21 of 22 starters are back, with only cornerback Eric Wright departing. But the top two picks in the draft — OT Riley Reiff and WR Ryan Broyles — are unlikely to make immediate huge impacts. And almost all of GM Martin Mayhew’s offseason moves consisted of signing his own free-agents.
For a bit of sobering perspective, I found some early over-under Las Vegas lines. This is for victory totals this season in the NFC:
Green Bay 12.5 wins
New Orleans 11.5
New York Giants 10.5
San Francisco 10.5
Interesting, huh? Or even a bit disconcerting. By that early, early measure, the Lions are on the cusp of being the sixth and final playoff team. Of course, the Saints easily could fall with Sean Payton and four players suspended. But everyone else in the mix will be tough, including the Bears, who return quarterback Jay Cutler.
On ESPN, former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said the Lions were more style than substance, and rated them below the Bears because of the Lions’ inability to run the ball or stop the run. That’s one perception, and the Lions need to change that.
Are they still a playoff team? I still say yes, and I’d happily take the over on 8.5. But this is another reminder it won’t be easy, and they won’t sneaking up on anyone this season.