The Detroit Lions didn’t have the look of a team that could be poised to do much damage when the 2020 season rolls around late in 2019, but much has changed over the course of a few months to change that narrative.
First, Detroit has had what most consider to be a solid NFL Draft. They’ve also added meaningful pieces in free agency that understand the scheme and the expectations of the coaching staff. They also figure to get Matthew Stafford back completely healthy and ready to dominate. All of those factors could add up to make the team a sleeper in Super Bowl circles this season.
Recently, Bleacher Report picked out 5 teams they consider to be huge sleepers based on their odds and the situations they find themselves in entering the season. Detroit checked in at No. 2, and the biggest reason has to do with the fact that Stafford figures to return in great shape and give the team more elite results and leadership.
Writer Chris Roling picked out the Lions as a sleeper team to watch and provided this as the reasoning:
“Getting a healthy Matthew Stafford back under center should do wonders for the Detroit Lions.
A back injury limited Stafford to only eight games last season, but he completed 64.3 percent of his pass attempts for 2,499 yards and 19 touchdowns against only five interceptions before going down.
The Lions offense predictably imploded without Stafford, as backups David Blough and Jeff Driskel combined for more interceptions than passing touchdowns. No running back tallied more than 403 rushing yards, and the defense ranked 26th in points allowed per game (26.4).
Stafford’s return is the biggest reason for the Lions’ sleeper status, but another offseason of building to head coach Matt Patricia’s liking doesn’t hurt, either.
The Lions bolstered their offensive line by signing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in free agency, and they replaced three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay with Desmond Trufant and No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah. They also grabbed every-down back D’Andre Swift with the No. 35 overall pick to give Stafford some instant-impact help.
The Lions came within four points of beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4 last season, and they lost six other games by a touchdown or less. Continued smart additions to the roster around Stafford and an improving Trey Flowers-led defense give them major sleeper appeal.”
Detroit currently stands at 60-1 odds to take home the Super Bowl, but that bet could pay off handsomely for believers if the team is able to come together and solve some of their biggest problems. It’s certainly true that the team was closer than many realize to having better results on the field, and with better breaks and health might be able to do damage on the field.
For now, many might be ignoring the Lions, but eventually, that might be tough to do if things come together in this way next year.
Lions Pegged NFL Sleeper Team For 2020
Recently, Shaun O’Hara of the NFL Network was asked to name the sleeper team he thinks is going to make a push in 2020 and go from last to first place. As he also said, the answer is the Lions.
As O’Hara explained, the Lions have quietly been building something good and it could be time for it to take off.
“When you look at what Matt Patricia has been building the last few years, year 3, it’s go time now. You planted a lot of seeds, now it’s time for them to rise up,” he said. “This offseason it’s been a pipeline. Every former New England Patriot he could get he swallowed up. He’s bringing in some veteran leaders, some quality players. Offensively, you get D’Andre Swift in the second round of this draft. I love the way he runs the football. Physical, aggressive runner I love his running style.”
O’Hara went on to say that Swift will come in motivated after dropping in the draft, and that’s dangerous for the rest of the league. He also liked the team’s addition of Jeff Okudah at cornerback, and said as a result
“I think this Detroit Lions team is going to be awake and I think they are going to stay woke because of the way Matt Patricia is building this team,” O’Hara concluded.
After a dismal first few seasons under Patricia, the hope is that O’Hara is right. Clearly, though, he isn’t as down on the Lions as many others in his profession might be at this point in time.
Lions Predicted to go Worst to First During 2020
Pro Football Focus recently took a look at predicting which teams could make the leap from worst to first during the 2020 NFL season. The Lions came up as one such team, and it was due to the possibility of them to have a solid offseason as well as benefit from their schedule.
“If there’s a team that’s gonna go from the bottom to the top, maybe it’s a team that has a decent situation and also a lot of draft capitol,” the analysts say to start the video.
Who is such a team? The answer was a quick one, and it was the Lions.
“It’s Detroit,” it was said. “Detroit’s a team, you look at the 49ers formula last season, it was get your quarterback healthy, improve defensively, get more turnovers, which is sort of like the reverse noise of the previous season and capitalize on a third or fourth place schedule. That’s Detroit.”
Additionally, if the Lions manage to make a bold draft move such as selecting a quarterback high, it might only improve their standing.
“If they take Tua (Tagovailoa) at No. 3, they have unequivocally the best quarterback situation in that entire division. The three other teams in their division all in the bottom end of draft capital, some in the bottom end in cap space, it’s Detroit. It’s a no-brainer.”
The Lions didn’t take Tagovailoa, but in the end, it might still be a no brainer to consider the team primed for a turnaround after a solid offseason of additions.
Even though NBC Sports analyst Peter King doesn’t have the Lions ranked high in his power rankings at 26th, he does see potential for some large things in 2020.
As King explains, it’s a big season for many with the team and while Matthew Stafford hasn’t accomplished much at this point in his career, the Lions will have a powerful offense. What happens this season from there will be determined by the defense.
“But what will it mean? Detroit basically treaded water in the offseason, trading ace cornerback Darius Slay to Philadelphia and using the third pick in the draft on his replacement, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. He’ll play opposite new cornerback Desmond Trufant, who comes from Atlanta after a disappointing end there. Patricia’s D needs to show progress after allowing a gaudy 24.5 points a game in his first two years, not the kind of performance the Lions expected when they hired the Belichick disciple two years ago. He’ll need strong performances from a couple of former Patriots who just arrived this year—instinctive safety Duron Harmon and roving linebacker Jamie Collins. I won’t be shocked if Detroit contends, because the Lions will score. The big question is the D.”
Many think the Lions actually improved their defense this offseason, even as others see the team basically doing nothing more than treading water. Either way, King is right. If Detroit’s defense steps up and has a big year, the team could stand to benefit by doing more winning than many would expect on the field.
Conditions could be ripe for a major turnaround in Detroit, and one that might even lead to a major drought being broken if it catches fire.
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