Were Expectations Too High for the Detroit Lions?
By Chris Morgan
It seems like every season, a team that the year prior came out of nowhere to find success finds themselves falling back to earth. They’ll usually get put in a few primetime games, but by the end of the season, that decision seems poor in hindsight. So far, a quarter of the way into the season, it seems that team may be the Detroit Lions.
Of course, it is still early in the year, and the sample size is small, and maybe the Lions will turn things around. However, it has been ugly. Detroit is 1-3, and they’ve lost to two teams that appeared inferior in Tennessee and Minnesota. Their only win came at home against St. Louis, and that was a close call as well. Heading into the season, a lot of folks were planning on another playoff appearance. Some even felt they might get even better. Right now, that seems unlikely. Were expectations too high? Did people expect too much from this particular Lions team?
In all honesty, expecting the Lions to improve their record was perhaps foolish. They jumped from 6-10 to 10-6 last season, but increasing their record beyond that was going to be difficult. There is a concept in the world of sports called the Plexiglass Principle, which basically is the same thing as regression to the mean. The Lions basically hit their ceiling, and there are a lot of factors that can go into a team’s record getting worse. Sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. In the course of a season that is a mere 16 games, a few bad breaks here and there can completely change a team’s record.
Of course, misfortune may not be the only thing playing into this. Once Detroit started getting dealt injuries, the expectations should have come down. Not having Jahvid Best hurts the offense, but the bigger problem has been on defense. As this article discusses, the secondary has been a big issue this season so far. Some may think that was the case last year, but in actuality they ranked fourth in pass defense as measured by DVOA. Late in the year, things did get worse. You know what happened that parallels that decline? An injury to Louis Delmas. It probably wasn’t coincidental.
This season, Delmas has yet to play. Injuries have also hindered Chris Houston and Bill Bentley. The loss of Eric Wright hurts as well. Right now, this secondary is bad, but it is also quite banged up. Maybe they will get healthy, and maybe the team will turn around, but by then it may be too late.
The Lions have the chance to turn their season around. Matthew Stafford can play better. Best may be back eventually. The secondary can get healthy… hopefully. However, as of right now, a playoff spot for Detroit seems unlikely. A winning record is even looking iffy at the moment. When you look at the facts, maybe that shouldn’t be all that surprising.
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Chris has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com.