For those of you who predicted the Detroit Lions would go 10-6, congratulations. You are better than I am.
The Lions made an incredible turnaround this season, erasing the memories of Matt Millen and Rod Marinelli by going to the playoffs just three years after not winning a game all season.
(Side note: Hey Marinelli, how did watching the Lions in the playoffs feel while your Chicago Bears were out of the playoffs?)
And to think I predicted the Lions would go 6-10. Oops.
A lot of things went right for the Lions to do as well as they did.
The biggest thing was quarterback Matthew Stafford stayed upright for 16 games instead of half a season. He threw for a club record 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, which is what the Lions were hoping for all along.
His main target was Calvin Johnson, who also ended up with a franchise record 16 touchdown catches as part of 1,681 receiving yards – five short of Herman Moore’s single-season record. We saw what Stafford and Johnson can do when they’re on the field together, helping the Lions to the fourth-best passing attack in the league.
And when Johnson was slowed, Nate Burleson shined like everyone saw when he played for Seattle, catching 73 balls for 757 yards.
The defense was improved, but barely. They were the 10th-worst rushing defense and the 11th-worst pass defense in the league. Having Nick Fairley healthy for 16 games will help out next season.
The result was finishing second in the NFC North Division and the 17th game.
No, I didn’t see that coming. I didn’t think the Bears would be as bad as they were, and the Lions split with them. I also thought the Lions would split with Minnesota because the Vikings have Adrian Petersen and so many receiving weapons, but a rookie quarterback was too much for them to overcome.
That was two of the four losses that turned out to be wins. I also didn’t see the Lions beating San Diego.
So the next question is what the Lions should do with personnel.
The first priority should be to get some help in the defensive secondary. This has long been a sore spot for the Lions, and Louis Delmas isn’t the answer without more help.
Another priority should be a feared running back. As we’ve seen with Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby, concussions can be problematic, so Jahvid Best is iffy at best. And Kevin Smith has always been injury-prone his entire career. Getting a top-notch back would take some of the pressure off of Stafford’s arm and improve the Lions’ standing as the fourth-worst rushing offense in the league.
Those who are saying the Lions have turned the corner are getting ahead of themselves, because one good season does not mean the Lions are going to be there every year for years to come.
Really, the Lions are a few tweaks away from becoming a perennial playoff contender. Wouldn’t that be nice to see for a change?