It is a sad day when Detroit Lions fans have to wait until September of 2018 for some Lions football. After finishing 9-7 on the season, Detroit is the 7th seed in a 6-team playoff bracket, leaving fans wondering what could have been.
Regardless of the season’s disappointment, there are plenty of positives that Lions faithful can take out of the 2017 campaign that will provide excitement for the 2018 season. It may only be a few days into the new year, but 2018 will be a great opportunity for the Lions to get over that playoff hump. Here are 9 (I like that number for some reason) positives to keep in mind going into the new year.
1. All 16 Lions games were competitive in the fourth quarter
There is an old saying that most teams going into an NFL season are 8-8 teams, but a few calls the right way or bounces the wrong way can make a team 10-6 or 6-10 very easily. The Lions, unfortunately, were guilty of this exact premise. Detroit’s final 9-7 record summarizes their season perfect: won the games they should have, lost the games they were expected to but were a few calls/bounces from winning a few more.
In all seven losses, the Lions were within a score at some point in the 4th quarter. Out of those seven games, there were five games where the Lions offense had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead late in the 4th quarter (Atlanta, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Cincinnati). Out of those seven games, there were three instances where the defense was a 3rd down stop away from giving the ball back to the offense with enough time to tie or win (Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati).
The big game everyone will remember is the Atlanta “runoff loss” as the one that cost the Lions the playoffs, but all of these other instances show just how close Detroit was from winning not one, but many more games this season. They were simply a few bounces/calls away.
2. The next Head Coach does not need to rebuild. He needs to win.
Since the 2011 season, the Detroit Lions have been a highly competitive team fighting for playoff position almost every season. The Lions are no longer known for their 0-16 record.
The firing of Jim Caldwell made it clear this team is in win-now mode and mediocrity will no longer be accepted. Referring back to the first positive bullet point, the losses the Lions suffered this year could have been aided by some improved decision-making on the head coach’s end (kicking a field goal instead of going for it, not challenging game-changing plays, etc.).
The next head coach’s job will not only be to transform talent into victories but to aid in the victory by making the right coaching decisions. Bob Quinn is no joke. He wants to win and win now. I have faith he will find the coach he feels gives the Lions the best chance to sustain consistency.
To check out some potential coaching candidates, click here.
Lions GM Bob Quinn addressed the media Monday regarding the dismissal of Jim Caldwell as the team’s Head Coach.
3. Matthew Stafford wants to play his entire career in a Detroit Lions uniform
When Matthew Stafford signed the richest contract in NFL history, it became clear that he wanted to stay and be the leader for the Detroit Lions for the long haul. The contract was a five-year deal, meaning No. 9 will be under center through 2022 wearing Honolulu blue.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, so to have a top-10 quarterback locked in for the long haul, it allows the front office and coaches to build around him.
— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) January 2, 2018
4. One of the best passing offenses in the league resides in Detroit
Matthew Stafford has thrown over 4,000 yards passing in seven consecutive seasons and is now the youngest quarterback in history to complete 3,000 passes in his career.
With the explosion of both Marvin Jones Jr. and Eric Ebron throughout the second half of the season give Detroit a short (Golden Tate), medium (Ebron), and deep (Marvin) passing attack. Throw in accessory pieces like Theo Riddick and Kenny Golladay, and there are very few teams that can contain this passing offense for four quarters.
5. The 5th best turnover differential in the NFL in 2017
The Lions finished off the season with a turnover differential of +10, tied for 5th best in the NFL. Not only is the opportunistic defense to thank for this, but also the ability of the offense to not turn the ball over as much.
If you ask Stafford and the offense, they will agree they need to cut down on the giveaways even more, as his fumbles were a major cause for concern this season. However, knowing your defense has the ability to give the ball back this frequently opens the door for more aggressive, downfield shots.
6. Bob Quinn’s first two draft classes have been highly successful thus far
In General Manager Bob Quinn’s first two seasons, he has set the goal to bring championships to Detroit. Championships are won through depth and stability within a team, and one must look no further than the NFL draft to discover how to sustain that long-term.
So far during his tenure, the following selections by BQ are expected to stay and play significant snaps in 2018:
- Taylor Decker (LT)
- A’Shawn Robinson (DT)
- Graham Glasgow (C)
- Joe Dahl (LG)
- Anthony Zettel (DE)
- Jarrad Davis (MLB)
- Jalen Reeves-Mabin (RLB)
- Teez Tabor (CB)
- Kenny Golladay (WR)
- Jamal Agnew (CB/ST)
7. Ziggy Ansah will be back in 2018 healthier and improved
Over the last few seasons, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah has been bothered by leg, back, and neck injuries. In addition to fighting an illness during one game (2015 versus the Saints), his performances have been inconsistent.
When healthy, Ansah is one of the most disruptive pass rushers on any defensive line in the NFL. This was evident in the final two weeks of this season when he piled up six sacks in just eight quarters. This was a contract year for Ansah, as his rookie deal is coming to an end, but it will be somewhat of a surprise if Detroit does not bring him back for 2018.
The Lions have a few options for this, as they can franchise him and pay him the top-5 league average for one season (estimated at approx $15 million), or attempt a long-term deal. Personally, I would have seen him being franchised before the last two games due to injury, and force him into a prove-it type of deal.
However, with six sacks in the final two games of the season, I can also see a multi-year deal in his future. Regardless of how it ends up being done, most expect Ziggy Ansah to wear Honolulu blue come September.
8. Financially, the Lions are in good position to make some good FA signings
After doing a way-to-early financial analysis of the 2018 offseason for the Lions, the approximated cap room will be right around $20 million to sign 5-10 players. This is assuming Ansah is either tagged or extended, $5-$7 million is set aside towards rookies, dead money from releasing a few aging players, and a few contract restructures.
This amount of cap space opens the opportunity for the Lions to pursue a running back, defensive line help, and some strong fill-in players.
To see who the Lions may chase after, check out the Free Agent article by Walter Kelly here.
9. Detroit is becoming a sought out place to play, all thanks to the fan base
Week 17’s win over the Green Bay Packers was a game that had zero playoff implications, yet Ford Field was absolutely rocking. In fact, the final count after week 17 helped set a season-long attendance record for Ford Field.
In addition, the amount of comments from players regarding road games where Lions fans seemed to be everywhere has increased over recent years.
The conclusion: Playing for the Detroit Lions is no longer a bad thing. In 2017, the Lions had five primetime games (the most any NFL team is allowed is 6), compared to 3 in 2016, with one of those being the week 17 Green Bay matchup that was flexed due to its playoff implications.