The Detroit Lions expect to have one of the brightest futures in the entire NFL soon, and that’s a hope that is shared not just by the team and its players, but fans as well.
But how close are the Lions to turning the corner and becoming one of the NFL’s top franchises? To get a more accurate idea of that, it might be most fair to consult some from on the outside to get their unvarnished take on the team.
ESPN analyst Jeremy Fowler did just that in a recent piece where he surveyed executives around the league for their take on various teams and player situations. When it came to Detroit, the Lions were seen as a team that could take big steps forward in the NFC North next season.
As Fowler wrote, with the momentum the Lions have built and their young roster, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them perhaps claim the NFC North, something some executives he spoke with were hypothesizing.
“Detroit finished the 2022 season as one of the league’s hottest teams and brings back most of its offensive nucleus along with a defense brimming with young talent. A healthy sophomore season for Jameson Williams should only propel Jared Goff, who has built a strong rapport with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. A few people we spoke to floated Detroit as a divisional winner in 2023,” Fowler wrote in the piece.
According to one conference executive quoted in the piece, there is still skepticism about quarterback Jared Goff maintaining hot play, but if he does, the Lions could even do damage in next year’s postseason.
“I’m not completely sold on Jared Goff keeping up his play from this year, but if he can, there’s no reason why they can’t do some damage in the playoffs,” an NFC exec said within Fowler’s piece.
The Lions did build plenty of momentum this season, and managed to have a solid 9-8 finish to the year which featured an 8-2 run down the stretch after a dismal 1-6 start to the season. That could help them as it relates to the future.
Detroit has to make some team improvements in the offseason to be thought of as a major contender, but if they do, there’s no reason the team can’t be a force both in their division and elsewhere in the NFC.
At this point, even league brass are starting to talk about the Lions as a potential future threat.
Myles Simmons Predicts NFC North Shakeup
The idea that the Lions could be primed to take the next step in the league in terms of winning their division is a common one at this point in league circles.
After Detroit finished off the season with a 20-16 upset win over Green Bay on the road, Pro Football Talk analyst Myles Simmons admitted that the way that game went felt like a message was being sent about how things could be in the future for the Lions.
“It was just one of those games where you know what, it may effectively be a sort of changing of the guard in the NFC North even though I know, the Vikings happened to win that division,” Simmons said on the show. “If you look at where the Detroit Lions are, what they have in terms of draft capital because of what the Los Angeles Rams did this year? This is obviously a team that is ascending and they’ve got some really good vibes heading into the offseason.”
The Lions as a division winner has not been a common experience. The team has only managed the feat three times before, in 1983, 1991 and 1993. For that reason, until the Lions make it happen, it could be a hard event to predict.
In terms of the playoffs, the Lions haven’t found a win there since 1991. Prior to that win, the Lions hadn’t won a playoff game at all since 1957. They had lost three times combined in the 1970s and 1980s. Their last appearance was in 2017 where they lost in the Wild Card round to Seattle after narrowly losing the division at season’s end to Green Bay.
Regardless, Simmons thinks the Lions could have sent a message in the season finale about where things may be trending soon.
State of NFC North Could Favor Lions
Detroit could have one major advantage over some of their competition soon in that they started their rebuild a few years early. That could combine to help them be in prime position to compete in the division.
Minnesota and Chicago both hit the reset button after the 2021-22 season, which means there could be some short and long-term pain yet to come for them in terms of roster building and construction. The Packers still remain at the top of the heap, but after Aaron Rodgers leaves, all bets are off as it relates to the direction the franchise will take. They’ve got some 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 very average. By then, the Lions could be emerging from their rebuild a team ready to contend. Even with Rodgers, the Lions were 2-0 against Green Bay in 2022, and were 5-1 against the division as a whole.
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. Across the landscape in the division, it’s not easy to see lots of others in that same boat.
In terms of 2022, the Lions already did some damage to their division foes. There might only be more of that to come in the near future for the team.