The Detroit Lions are seen as a team that could be on the cusp of a major turnaround, but at the dawn of a new year, there isn’t much of a consensus on when that turnaround will come.
Some believe the team will show up as a force sooner rather than later, while others think it might take a few more years to come around. Regardless, the Lions figure to be interesting this year, and that’s a topic that many have tackled before the start of the 2022 season.
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Pro Football Network was the latest to tackle this issue, and writer Dallas Robinson included the Lions on his list of four teams that could make a Cincinnati Bengals-style run from worst-to-first in 2022.
As Robinson conceded, the Lions could be easier to see as a playoff team, but might have to wait a while to be contenders in their division given the presence of the Green Bay Packers.
“The Lions are probably a year away from finding their franchise quarterback and turning those playoff aspirations into realities. Detroit is an interesting dark-horse contender for a Wild Card berth, but they’d need the Packers to take a meaningful step back in order to grasp the NFC North title,” Robinson wrote in the piece.
In any scenario in which the Lions are 2022 contenders to win the NFC North, it’s likely Green Bay has multiple injuries or problems. Though their roster is aging, the Packers are still set up to contend quicker than Detroit. Still, that’s why they play games on the field and not on paper.
The Lions might still have a bright future, and if they manage to get a major turnaround season from one player, it could be on an even faster track.
Analyst: Jared Goff Biggest Key for 2022 Lions
If the Lions are indeed able to go worst-to-first in 2022, the biggest reason could be an improved offense. Detroit struggled with a lack of big plays in 2021, and that was a big reason they wanted to find better weapons. That led them to keep around wideouts Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond as well as sign DJ Chark and draft Jameson Williams.
In terms of Robinson’s analysis, though, quarterback might be the top spot to watch given the team’s new offensive outlook, and it could be a swing factor in his mind.
“New pass catchers DJ Chark and Jameson Williams, plus an underrated offensive line, should give Detroit a solid floor on offense. Can Jared Goff and first-year offensive coordinator Ben Johnson elevate the unit enough to turn the Lions into a serious contender?,” he wrote.
Goff’s play is a true wild card in any 2022 discussion about the Lions. The quarterback has been below-average enough lately that most believe he could be a liability for the team. Still, a 6-5 career record in the playoffs as well as some impressive career statistics show his ceiling might be higher than many realize.
Should Goff step up and have a great season, the Lions could be set to shock plenty of folks, and it could vault them to potentially instant contender status. If he disappoints, the Lions could once again be in-play for a top 10 pick. An average season could get the Lions in playoff contention at the very least.
It might hinge on Goff as a whole for Detroit this season.
Lions Future Might Be Brightest in NFC North
In terms of the future, Detroit is still midway through a rebuild, but the division setup could benefit them soon. Minnesota and Chicago both hit the reset button after the 2022 season, which means there could be some pain yet to come in each city for roster building. The Packers still remain at the top, but after Aaron Rodgers leaves, all bets are off as it relates to the direction of the franchise. They’ve got strong pieces elsewhere on offense and defense, but elite quarterback play can prove to be a major driver of team success. Minus Rodgers, the Packers could prove to be average. By then, the Lions could be emerging from their rebuild ready to contend.
While Chicago and Minnesota might have different timelines in coming years, the Lions could be seen as a team with a trajectory firmly planted in the upward position. Whether that means anything for 2022 remains to be seen, but the team has an obvious chance to roll into the year and do some damage if things come together.