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 The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking about 
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Post The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking about
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The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking about
Last week’s fluky loss aside, retired NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz sees a Lions team that could surprise a lot of people this season.
by Geoff Schwartz Sep 27, 2017, 12:43pm EDT

Sorry, Lions fans. Y’all found another way to lose on Sunday, and I might have jinxed you. I was flipping through the games, saw the ending and tweeted out how impressed I was with the Lions’ victory. Oops.

I’m still impressed with the Lions through three games this season. They’re legit contenders in the NFC, at 2-1, having just lost the reigning NFC champions — and favorites to repeat with that title — by six inches! The Lions are improved in almost every aspect of their team.

I was signed by the Detroit Lions in the spring of 2016 by new general manager Bob Quinn. My time was short in Detroit, but I came away impressed by the staff. Head coach Jim Caldwell is respected by everyone on the team and treats the players like adults. He’s never going to show much emotion; however, when he does, you know he means business.

Quinn came from New England and started to build the roster to aid Matt Stafford, signing wide receiver Marvin Jones and fortifying the trenches. In 2016 the Lions drafted left tackle Taylor Decker in the first round, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson in the second, and current left guard Graham Glasgow in the third. This year, they went with a middle linebacker in round one, fixing a need for them and, again, helping to make the team tougher.

I’ve written about this before, but some teams don’t pair up personnel to scheme. It makes no sense to me. That’s not true with the Lions. Stafford is a perfect fit for Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. It’s an uptempo offense that relies on Stafford to make quick decisions with the ball and turn short passes into long runs. Last season Golden Tate led NFL wide receivers in yards after the catch. The running backs are quick and excellent pass catchers. The offense is physical in the run game and the pass game. They jump defenders now, allowing Stafford a firm pocket.

On defense, they employ almost an old-school 4-3 even defense, with their line trying to get up the field. There is no read and react for that bunch. In the back end, they rely on the defensive backs to be sound in their assignments knowing they won’t blitz much and might have to defend longer than usual. The Lions have a shutdown corner in Darius Slay and an excellent safety in Glover Quin.

Last season, the Lions were on a roll until Stafford broke his finger down the stretch. That derailed their season. They eventually lost the division to the Packers, and the following week lost in Seattle in the Wild Card round.

Stafford got a $135 million contract extension this offseason and expectations were high. However, most pundits weren’t as high on the Lions because of their unbelievable success in close games last season (7-2 in games decided by fewer than seven points). That tends to not carry over year to year.

Well, the Lions are here to stay. It’s a small sample size, but through three games, they have improved in many categories. According to Football Outsiders DVOA, which measures efficiency, the Lions entered Week 3 at fourth in the NFL. Last season, they were 27th. The Lions were -1 in turnover margin in 2016 and through three weeks, they are +6, first in the NFL.

They are making plays like this one from Sunday.

Matt Ryan audibles the play. Notice Lions safety Glover Quin, No. 27? He’s calling out the route before running it for the Falcons and taking the ball to the house.

Since 2013, Quin is tied for the second-most interceptions (18) in the NFL.

The Lions also are tied for the lead in the NFL with 29 pass breakups. Darius Slay has six of the 29, and on Sunday he was tasked with guarding Julio Jones. In that matchup, Jones was targeted eight times with just four receptions for 50 yards.

Last season, the Lions had zero pass rush. They were near the bottom of the league in hits, which is considered sacks plus all the times the QB gets knocked down by a defender. This season, they have seen an uptick early in the season. They have 20 hits through three games (6.7 per game) after generating 68 hits all season last year (4.3 per game).

Those 20 hits have come on 123 dropbacks this year (16.3 percent) compared to 68 hits on 575 dropbacks (11.8 percent) last year.

With all the nice things being said, they did get gashed on Sunday by the Falcons, which happens to every team playing them inside on turf. The Falcons are almost unstoppable in those conditions. Their run defense, which had been steller in the first two weeks (playing against two teams who don’t run the ball well), it wasn’t as great on Sunday.

I wouldn’t worry though. Let’s see how they fare this weekend.

Offensively, Stafford is once again playing at a high level and being efficient with the offense. The revamped offensive line — a new right guard and right tackle from free agency, a new left tackle because of injury, and some swapping of parts inside because of injury — has protected Stafford well, only allowing six sacks and 14 total hits in three games.

Stafford is seventh in quarterback rating, and while he’s average to below average in yards per attempt, that’s more a function of the offense. He can sling the ball downfield with precision, as he did on this play from Sunday

Running the ball has been an issue for the Lions for a while now. They have been at or near the bottom of rushing totals for the last three seasons. In 2016, the Lions only averaged 81 yards rushing per game. No Bueno. This season, that’s up to 97 yards per game.

Here’s a simple pin-and-pull play against the Giants from Week 2. The Giants, for whatever reason, haven’t had a stout run defense, but that’s not the point. Everyone in white does their job, even the tight end. It’s a beauty to watch.

Lastly, the Lions offense has been helped by their special teams. They are leading the NFL in average starting field position and, not surprisingly, are first in punt return average. Every little bit helps.

Maybe I’m biased because I enjoyed my couple of months in Detroit, but I believe in this franchise and the direction they are going. Jim Caldwell runs a tight ship. The players respect him and will always compete for him. Their coaching staff and front office are on the same page, and the Lions have continued to improve in the areas it takes to win football games.

They are the front-runner to win the NFC North.

https://www.sbnation.com/2017/9/27/1637 ... alks-about

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September 28th, 2017, 1:57 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
Here is some Lions love...

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap300000 ... -top-three

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October 3rd, 2017, 12:42 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
I'm going to play the role of devils advocate.
Remember the year after Barry retired??
Lions off to 6-2 and finish 8-8.
They were crushing it in the turn over battles in the 1st 8 games......then the turnovers stopped happening. We cannot count on the TO to keep continuing the way they have been....and without those our record would not be near as it is. Now I know the TO battle is a big part of the game but it will not continue the way it has for much longer. The offense must get its act together or this season could turn around in a big hurry.



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October 3rd, 2017, 11:26 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
frok wrote:
I'm going to play the role of devils advocate.
Remember the year after Barry retired??
Lions off to 6-2 and finish 8-8.
They were crushing it in the turn over battles in the 1st 8 games......then the turnovers stopped happening. We cannot count on the TO to keep continuing the way they have been....and without those our record would not be near as it is. Now I know the TO battle is a big part of the game but it will not continue the way it has for much longer. The offense must get its act together or this season could turn around in a big hurry.



Frok.


The turnovers didn't persist because of injuries to key role players like Bryant Westbrook and Kurt Schultz. Losing big players to injury hurt. But back then our secondary was good, but not deep. We have a deep secondary this year. Just sayin'...


October 4th, 2017, 2:19 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
Hystrix wrote:
frok wrote:
I'm going to play the role of devils advocate.
Remember the year after Barry retired??
Lions off to 6-2 and finish 8-8.
They were crushing it in the turn over battles in the 1st 8 games......then the turnovers stopped happening. We cannot count on the TO to keep continuing the way they have been....and without those our record would not be near as it is. Now I know the TO battle is a big part of the game but it will not continue the way it has for much longer. The offense must get its act together or this season could turn around in a big hurry.



Frok.


The turnovers didn't persist because of injuries to key role players like Bryant Westbrook and Kurt Schultz. Losing big players to injury hurt. But back then our secondary was good, but not deep. We have a deep secondary this year. Just sayin'...


Agree, but ....with all of the TO's we have had we sure haven't scored many points.

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October 4th, 2017, 4:14 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
frok wrote:
Hystrix wrote:
frok wrote:
I'm going to play the role of devils advocate.
Remember the year after Barry retired??
Lions off to 6-2 and finish 8-8.
They were crushing it in the turn over battles in the 1st 8 games......then the turnovers stopped happening. We cannot count on the TO to keep continuing the way they have been....and without those our record would not be near as it is. Now I know the TO battle is a big part of the game but it will not continue the way it has for much longer. The offense must get its act together or this season could turn around in a big hurry.



Frok.


The turnovers didn't persist because of injuries to key role players like Bryant Westbrook and Kurt Schultz. Losing big players to injury hurt. But back then our secondary was good, but not deep. We have a deep secondary this year. Just sayin'...


Agree, but ....with all of the TO's we have had we sure haven't scored many points.



Really? We had 11 points off of turnovers against the Vikes, plus the game clincher. Even though we lost our turnovers kept us competitive with Atlanta. Also we have 2 defensive TDs. That sounds like a lot for this team.


October 5th, 2017, 12:15 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
The Lions won 9 games last season with low turnovers, so there is something to think about. The play calling on offense is likely to change if Caldwell doesn't feel the team can fall back on the defense. There is at least evidence of the offense flipping the switch in crunch time, so I think it's a little premature to be counting the team out if the turnovers stop.


October 5th, 2017, 2:56 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
Hystrix wrote:
frok wrote:
Hystrix wrote:
frok wrote:
I'm going to play the role of devils advocate.
Remember the year after Barry retired??
Lions off to 6-2 and finish 8-8.
They were crushing it in the turn over battles in the 1st 8 games......then the turnovers stopped happening. We cannot count on the TO to keep continuing the way they have been....and without those our record would not be near as it is. Now I know the TO battle is a big part of the game but it will not continue the way it has for much longer. The offense must get its act together or this season could turn around in a big hurry.



Frok.


The turnovers didn't persist because of injuries to key role players like Bryant Westbrook and Kurt Schultz. Losing big players to injury hurt. But back then our secondary was good, but not deep. We have a deep secondary this year. Just sayin'...


Agree, but ....with all of the TO's we have had we sure haven't scored many points.



Really? We had 11 points off of turnovers against the Vikes, plus the game clincher. Even though we lost our turnovers kept us competitive with Atlanta. Also we have 2 defensive TDs. That sounds like a lot for this team.


You are just proving my point. 3 turnovers and only have 14point for the game.
Atlanta 3 turnovers 1 returned for a TD and only have 26pts.

Maybe I'm wrong, but its pretty hard to win a lot of games when the offense does not score 20+ points without 3 turnovers.

Done with the Devils advocate stuff.
We get our Line Backer Back this week!

Frok.

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October 5th, 2017, 7:42 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
It doesn't prove anything. The offense calls plays based on what the score is. We haven't had a need for a high scoring offense much this season. we've controlled the ball better and Stafford is the 5th highest rated QB even with not putting up great stats. The run game is controlling time of possession, even though yardage isn't what it should be. Every team learns off the tape and it's to our advantage that the offense hasn't had to reveal the entire offense by week 5. When the tougher opponents show up, we will still be able to throw surprises at the opposing defenses.


October 5th, 2017, 10:05 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
oK OK you're right I'm wrong. hope that makes all happy. Detroit's offense is really really good. they just haven't needed to show it yet.

Frok.

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October 6th, 2017, 12:13 am
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
I've been disappointed with the offense, tbh. The line is partially at fault, for obvious reasons.

However, when the run to the left side consistently, that's play calling. When they pass on third and 5 from the gun without even putting a RB back there, that's play calling. Rarely have those worked, but they keep trying them. That is the definition of insanity.

Also, Ebron has been hot garbage, Golloday has been hurt for a few weeks, Zenner has been underutilized, etc.

Overall, the offense has been relatively disappointing.

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October 6th, 2017, 5:26 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
conversion02 wrote:
I've been disappointed with the offense, tbh. The line is partially at fault, for obvious reasons.

However, when the run to the left side consistently, that's play calling. When they pass on third and 5 from the gun without even putting a RB back there, that's play calling. Rarely have those worked, but they keep trying them. That is the definition of insanity.

Also, Ebron has been hot garbage, Golloday has been hurt for a few weeks, Zenner has been underutilized, etc.

Overall, the offense has been relatively disappointing.


Yeah, the play calling has been brutal for most of the season. The silver lining at the moment is that throughout the Minny game there was a clear focus on working the clock. The line blocked well enough to continuously mix runs in effectively. I hope the trend continues, because then the playbook really expands.


October 7th, 2017, 1:37 am
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
Gulp

:-#

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October 10th, 2017, 11:20 pm
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Post Re: The Lions are the best team nobody's really talking abou
The Lions are not a good team right now which is why nobody is talking about them. Their Line is a mess on both sides of the ball, they have no real running game, little receiving talent and they are dependent on Stafford to overcome everything. The coaching staff is overwhelmed in every game as JBC is overmatched against NFL OC's in the league.


October 26th, 2017, 10:27 pm
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