Detroit Lions Team Preview

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    This is not your father or grandfather’s Detroit Lions as they have improbably become one of the most stable franchises in the NFL.  The Lions are getting better every season and have a reliable core built around an elite offensive line that allows the team to get peak performances out of all their multitude of weapons.  The Lions used to be a fantasy wasteland and now if you don’t have any Detroit players on your team, you are often filled with envy.

    The Lions were the preseason darlings last season and managed to exceed expectations by finishing 12-5 and ranking as a top-five offensive unit in points, yards, first downs, passing yards, passing TDs, rushing yards, rushing TDs and rushing yards-per-attempt.  The scary part is they are still just scratching the surface and should see a significant jump from TE Sam LaPorta (TE1) and Jahmyr Gibbs (RB10).  Many so-called experts clowned them when they took Gibbs in the first round and while Gibbs started slowly, he’s going off the board as a top-five RB in a position that is very top-heavy.  The Lions were one of the most exciting teams in the league due to the nature of the team which was heavily focused on offense and treated the secondary more as a necessary evil.  The running defense was elite, finishing second in rushing yards allowed and third in yards-per-attempt, but the secondary couldn’t stop anyone and finished 27th or worse in passing yards, passing TDs and passing yards-per-attempt.  They have addressed those issues in the draft by going snagging CBs Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. with their first two picks.  It’s hard to tell how much of a difference the two rookies will make early in the season, but the Lions keep making shrewd moves and seek a more balanced team this season.

    As always, they will only go as far as Jared Goff takes them, which unfortunately is largely going to depend on where the game is taking place.  Over the last two seasons which means 17 games at home and 17 games on the road, Goff has thrown for 42 TDs at home and only 17 on the road.  The rest of his numbers are skewed in favor of home vs. away, but those TDs numbers are shocking and can hardly be chalked up to random variance.  The beauty of this team is that they don’t need Goff to the best QB in the league, the offense is so talented, there are probably 24 QBs in the league who would thrive and Goff has defied the skeptics by throwing for over 4400 yards in b2b seasons and having a 59-19 TD-INT ratio.

    Writer’s Season Win Prediction: 11-6

    Despite the raw passing numbers which are quite elite, the best part about this Detroit attack is that they are first and foremost a team that wants to pound the rock.  The offensive line is the backbone of the team, and everything grows from there.  Two seasons ago they had Jamaal Williams lead the league in rushing TDs and last season they added David Montgomery who finished 13 TDs in only 14 games.  The two-headed of monster of Montgomery and Gibbs is deadly and offers the perfect combo of thunder and lightning and while they do cancel each other out a bit for fantasy, together they form an unstoppable RB duo.  Gibbs couldn’t get going until Montgomery went down as he didn’t score double digit fantasy points until Week 7, but anyone who watched him knew he was a monster waiting in the wings.  After Week 7 Gibbs was officially off to the races and finished as the RB4 even when Montgomery was back in the fold.  Gibbs profiles as the ideal two-way back and he should all his numbers jump across the board.  He finished second in the league in rushes 20+ yards (11) and fifth in broken tackles (21).  The worry is that Gibbs might march the Lions down the field only to have Montgomery finish the job, but a more balanced attack for fantasy should bode well for Gibb’s health during the season.

    It’s almost criminal that this article has gone this long without mentioning the true shining light of this Detroit team, the Sun-god himself Amon-Ra St. Brown.  St. Brown has officially made the leap into the WR elite and has gotten better in each of his three seasons. There isn’t a WR stat where he isn’t top-five in (164 targets, 119 receptions and 1515 yards) and his WR3 finish last year is almost the floor as long as he can stay healthy.  The Lions don’t have a legit WR2 and while LaPorta is going to a huge target monster and Gibbs is dangerous catching ball out of the backfield, St. Brown stands alone as the prime threat every time Goff needs a big completion or score.  He was dominant out of the slot where he lined up 55% of the time and the only real issue anyone could bring up is his yards-per-catch are rather pedestrian at 7.1.

    LaPorta is the other not so secret weapon who became a TD monster with 10 TDs on only 15 red zone targets.  LaPorta is the X factor on the team because if he continues to progress, defenses will be helpless once the offense is firing on all cylinders.  LaPorta is a serious threat to overtake Travis Kelce as the perennial TE1 and might not give up the belt for close to a decade.  LaPorta destroyed the concept of a rookie TE curse as he was either able to shake his defender before the catch or after as he was second in the league at the TE position for broken tackles (9).  If this was just preview for what the league has in store, it’s going to be terrifying to see the encore.  LaPorta is going to be expensive on draft day, but you just can’t put a price on getting elite WR production from the TE position.


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