The Detroit Lions are zeroing in on a new season, and until the first game is played, fans will be pondering how the team can make the most amount of noise in a new year.
Not many folks are willing to go out on a limb and predict the team will be able to have such success in terms of postseason representation, but that doesn’t mean the odds are bad that they will do so.
Recently, ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell took a closer look at the Super Bowl and playoff odds of every team with the site’s FPI index. While the team has a minuscule 1.1% shot at winning the big game, their playoff odds are much better.
The piece contends the Lions have a 29.4% chance at making the postseason, which is high for a squad that places 26th overall in the piece and near the implied bottom of the NFL. As Barnwell writes, an overall improvement could be on-tap even if Detroit isn’t a bonafide title contender.
“Just about everybody thinks the Lions will improve after a frustrating 2021 campaign, myself included. It’s fair to wonder whether they really have a Super Bowl-caliber ceiling, which is reflected in their FPI odds; they have significantly higher playoff odds than the teams below them in these rankings, although their chances of winning a championship aren’t much different than the Steelers or Jaguars,” Barnwell wrote.
Detroit probably doesn’t have much a championship shot at this point, but stranger things have certainly happened in sports, especially if the team can find a way to claw into the postseason.
At this point, however, the team need only focus on the first quarter of the first game on the schedule. If they can stack positive performances, they may indeed have a shot at something come the end of the season.
Barnwell: Lions’ 2022 Defense Must Improve
So how will the Lions prove those odds correct and make the playoffs? According to Barnwell, the defense might well tell the story of where the team goes.
As Barnwell concedes in the piece, he’s not all that worried about the team’s offense given the pieces they have. Defensively, however, the team struggled in 2021, and might be on track to do so again.
“The defense is the bigger concern, given that Detroit finished 29th in DVOA a year ago. In Aaron Glenn’s second season as coordinator, the hope would have to be that defensive end Romeo Okwara and cornerback Jeff Okudah return from injury and exceed expectations,” Barnwell wrote.
As Barnwell points out, Okwara will be shelved to start the season as he recovers from last year’s ACL injury. Still, others are in the mix up front that could help the Lions rush the passer, and Okudah is looking and sounding like he is primed to be a different man in 2022.
Should Detroit’s defense step up and be better than last year as it looks they might, it could go a long way toward helping the team make a surprise run to the postseason.
Lions’ Schedule Could Help Playoff Push
Detroit’s slate is very interesting this coming season, and if the Lions can build some momentum, it could be easy to see how they could get things going and generate some positivity.
Detroit will play at home three out of the first four weeks of the season. They start with Philadelphia and Washington before taking on a Minnesota team they narrowly lost to on the road in 2021. Then, they come back home to take on a changed Seattle team that has seen major reconstruction this offseason. The Commanders aren’t trending toward being one of the best teams in the league, and Seattle feels more beatable than in the past. That’s a friendly way to start the year for Detroit.
Fans may roll their eyes, but there is a good shot for the Lions to start out 3-1, or at the very least 2-2 with this home-friendly setup. That could prime them for a solid finish to the year after a tough middle slate plays out.
In terms of the finish, providing Detroit doesn’t flail early, there is a chance the Lions could use a post-Thanksgiving push to get in playoff contention. From Week 13-17, the Lions will play teams that on paper, they should have a good chance at beating prior to finishing at Lambeau Field. Over that stretch, their toughest games could well be against either Minnesota at home or the New York Jets on the road.
The finish is looking as if it could be mighty favorable for the Lions and play a determining factor in how the 2022 season ends up.
In the end, that could be a reason the Lions find a way to break through to the postseason, potentially proving these FPI odds correct.