The writer who correctly predicted that the Seahawks would win the Super Bowl has done it again. Nate Davis of USA Today's Sports has given the Detroit Lions a prediction of 4-12 for the upcoming 2014 NFL regular season, and 3rd in the NFC North. While Lions fans are preparing for another roller coaster season, I have to give my two cents in on this team.
While I am still upset that the Lions drafted a tight end instead of a defensive back (our backfield is a graveyard, where the opposing wide receiver do touchdown dances on the graves of the dead. It was a definite need) with the 10th overall pick, they did make it a little better with the defensive picks later on. Before OTA's, there was drama following Ndamukong Suh and his contract. Some said that if he wanted to be a leader then he needed to restructure his contract to make it more cap friendly (which still hasn't happened, and as a result the Lions can't sign Eric Ebron). OTA's came and gone, and Jim Caldwell was able to get a feeling on what to do with this team.
I am a Lion's fan, diehard, and I always have faith in a team (although I am prepared for another collapse like last year). This team, like the past few years, is loaded in the offensive front. The addition of Golden Tate was a good one to help Stafford The defensive line combo of Suh, Fairley, Ansah, and Taylor can give offensive lines and QB's some grief and aggravation. The linebackers need some work, but give it time. The backfield were injured last year, and coming in healthy is a plus. The backfield is also home to a lot of undrafted free agents, so it's gonna be a young team to cover star receivers.
Let's take a closer look at the offensive firepower that this team has. Matthew Stafford has an O-line that has improved on all sides since the "Swiss-cheese line" that helped the Lions to the perfect 0-16 season before he came aboard. He also has one of the best receivers in the game in Calvin Johnson, and the addition of Golden Tate, the former Notre Dame receiver who won a Super Bowl with Seattle in February, to opposite Megatron will give Stafford some room to improve under Caldwell's game plan. Tate has only dropped 6 catchable passes out of 151 in his entire career, which is something the Lion's are hoping to have a drop in that category (ranked in the top of the NFL past two seasons). Reggie Bush and Joique Bell at running back are a good one-two combo; when Bush went down to injury, Bell was able to step up and help the Lions in the rushing game. Bell is also particularly good getting into the end zone, with 8 touchdowns to his credit there. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that he expects a dual-role from the two players, provided Bell gets healthy after a knee injury sidelined him from mini-camp.
The defensive side is a concern that many Lions fans have. The backfield is going to be young, with many of the undrafted free agents trying to make their point across to start. The linebackers are going to be a mix of veterans and rookies, with 2nd round pick Kyle Van Noy destined to start for the Lions. DT Nick Fairley has lost some weight, cutting fast food out of his diet, making him slimmer and faster off the ball. Hopefully the lost weight doesn't hamper his ability to make plays in the trenches. Ndamukong Suh is a player that i think is going to have a great season, provided he gets this whole contract thing situated soon so it helps the Lions be cap friendly next season. The man will be having fans at Ford Field scream "Suuuuuuuuuuh!!!" every single game, and the term Suh-nami Warning will be a new thing there. It may be the kind of season that could make him a defensive MVP candidate.
The one single problem that this team has had in the past is that they cannot handle success. They had a 6-3 record at the BYE week, 1st place in the NFC North, and were poised to win it all. They blew it, however, ending with a record of 7-9, being eliminated from playoff contention by the Giants, who were worst! If this team wants to win the NFC North title, and make a run in the playoffs, then they need to handle success early. Otherwise, the Lions will have a 2015 offseason full of cleaning-out-the-closet changes. Caldwell says he wants to win championships, and that this team is a good team. They better impress me and the other fans early on (you can be impressed even at a loss), or else there may be a mob calling for the ax.
With that being said, my prediction for the 2014 season is that the Lions will be 10-6 this season. Their schedule offers tough teams to contend with (NFC North, Saints, Patriots, and Dolphins), but with the firepower on the offensive side and the leadership of the defense, this team will get to a winning record. Playoffs are possible, but if it doesn't happen I won't be surprised.