The Detroit Lions, most figure, are still a few years away from serious contention, even as the team has made some intriguing gains this past offseason.
Detroit’s roster still has some major holes, and the team is still trying to find the right blend of impact makers as well as stars and role players to determine their future. Even though that’s the case, the team could be in an advantageous spot when it comes to the NFC North.
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While Aaron Rodgers returned to the Green Bay Packers, there have been plenty of changes otherwise within the division. The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings both fired their front offices and head coaches, meaning resets could be coming in future years for both those teams. While the Packers would seem to be in the driver’s seat again, folks have also been trying to hype up the Bears as a sneaky pick to do some good things with a new staff.
In both cases, Bleacher Report thinks everyone is wrong. The site recently took a look at the most overrated teams ahead of the 2022 season, and interestingly enough, the NFC North was well-represented with both the Packers and the Bears cracking the list. Ian Wharton proclaimed both teams to be in that category for this coming year.
For Chicago, Wharton admitted that indeed a bad team can be over-hyped, and that’s what he sees for the Bears, whom he believes will have a hard time reaching six wins. As he said, he believes Chicago will be one of the four worst teams in the league.
In terms of the Packers, Wharton admitted that the team may still be able to win plenty of games, but should be considered overrated as Super Bowl threats, just as they have proven to be over the last few years. The reason? Rodgers isn’t working with an elite wideout group anymore.
Add it up and this represents a major opportunity for the Lions to take some steps forward at the expense of their two closest rivals within the division should each team show as overrated in 2022 as this piece expects.
Why Lions Could Contend in NFC North
Despite a 3-13-1 record in 2021, the Lions weren’t that far away from contending, considering the team lost tons of close games on absurd late field goals and by other strange coincidences. If that luck evens out just a bit, the Lions should be able to double their win total to six or seven games in 2022, making them one of the most improved teams in the league. Detroit was hardly outclassed by their division rivals last year as well. The Lions went 2-4 against the NFC North, scoring second-half upset wins at the expense of the Vikings and Packers. Detroit’s four losses in the division were by a grand total of 32 points, and featured a pair of two-point defeats to both the Bears and Vikings. Detroit also held the halftime lead in Green Bay during Week 2 in primetime, but could not finish.
While it’s not something one would predict, if the Lions can flip some of those games and find a way to win a few others, they may have a winning record against their rivals and become a true dark horse contender for the division. That’s especially true if their competition fades a bit and finds struggles themselves.
Breaking Down NFC North Division for 2022
While Rodgers and the Packers always seem to have a good thing going on, the Lions could be a team that is firmly on the come up for the future. While the Packers kept their quarterback, they also dealt threatening wideout Davante Adams, which will take away a major problem for the Lions in pass defense. Additionally, the team re-shaped their defense, cutting ZaDarius Smith, who was tough against the pass. These subtractions will end up hurting the team in a big way.
Chicago had questions up front, and didn’t do much this offseason to help their offensive line nor did they make a bold move for their defensive line after whiffing on a Larry Ogunjobi signing. They added a few wideouts in Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, but nothing dominant in the draft. Minnesota, meanwhile, has kept things close to status quo, adding Harrison Phillips as their big move. None of those teams had drafts that blew away experts, either.
While the Lions have plenty of questions themselves, it’s clear their closest competition divisionally does as well. That sets the team up for a situation where a few foes could fall flat while the Lions could take steps forward on the field and become potential dark horse contenders.
It might not pay off with an immediate division title in 2022, but the team is certainly in good shape moving forward toward 2023.