The Detroit Lions watched quarterback Matthew Stafford get hurt in the 2019 season, which essentially removed any chance the franchise could contend for a playoff berth. Stafford is not a top-five quarterback, but an argument could be made that he is an elite starter. With him back in the fold and the Lions making several improvements, should sports betting fans trust this team to make some noise in the NFC North?
The Lions released linebacker Devon Kennard and traded cornerback Michael Jackson to the New England Patriots, but they made a number of acquisitions to attempt to improve their roster. They added offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, cornerback Desmond Trufant, and receiver Geronimo Allison. The Allison acquisition is especially notable because Allison played for the Green Bay Packers. The Lions are getting a player from a division rival, someone who can provide insight on how to handle Aaron Rodgers & Co.. The Lions also took a gamble with the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Usually, cornerbacks are not taken in the top three; usually, it’s a quarterback, a left tackle, or a devastating pass rusher. However, Detroit went all-in on Jeff Okudah of Ohio State because they traded their top corner in Darius Slay (to the Philadelphia Eagles). Okudah looked like an elite athlete in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the 2019 Fiesta Bowl when Ohio State played Clemson. A lot of NFL prospects were on that field. If Okudah pans out, the Lions would take a big step toward improving their defense, which has lost – in the past year – Quandre Diggs (Seattle Seahawks) and Slay due to the organization’s inability to keep top players in the fold.
The NFL odds show that the Lions are a three-point home favorite in Week 1 versus the Chicago Bears.
There are lots of problems. When a team is terrible as the Lions were last year, there is no single magic-bullet solution to every weakness. One could identify numerous elements the Lions have to urgently improve, but if asked for one X-factor above all others, it is the back seven on defense.
If Stafford is healthy, the Lions’ offense instantly becomes respectable, if not slightly better. The Lions don’t have a complete offense, but Stafford gives them plenty to work with. The defense is where this team has to be far better. This is partly why the Lions drafted a cornerback at No. 3 in the first round. Moreover, the perplexing decisions to let Diggs and Slay go further weakened what Detroit already had. This is a team that has to be able to stop Rodgers in the fourth quarter and has to be able to make huge late-game defensive stands. The secondary is the No. 1 element of concern, but the linebackers also have to hold up against running backs and tight ends in pass coverage as well.
The Lions play the NFC North six times – two games versus the Bears, Packers, and Vikings, each – and the AFC South (interconference games) four times. The other six games come against the NFC South (four games) and the Cardinals plus the Washington Football Team. The AFC South and NFC South are both tough divisions, so the Lions figure to swim against the current. It is hard to view the ceiling as anything higher than 8-8. Bet under their regular-season win total in the sportsbook.
2020 Projected Record: 6-10