The Detroit Lions have become quite familiar with being a disaster area. The fate of their football team has become synonymous with that of their local municipal government—bankrupt. Even so, last year’s 4-12 performance ranks pretty high on the list of disappointments. Detroit entered the 2012 season with great expectations and finished it as a great big flop.
As you would expect from a team that loses 75 percent of its games, Detroit did most everything poorly and it started on defense, where they ranked 27th in the NFL. The Lions had every reason to think that a strong front four could key a good defensive unit. Instead, they ended up tied for 20th in sacks.
Detroit responded by cutting ties with defensive ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. They’ll try and rebuild around their good young tackles, the controversial Ndamakong Suh and Nick Fairley. Detroit also went out and signed former Chicago Bear Israel Idonjie to play on the end. This is a decent signing, but what does it say when your team’s response to a problem is to sign the leftovers for a division rival?
There’s a lot of pressure on the front four to be great, because the back seven was awful in most areas of pass defense last year. It was the weakness of the team at the beginning of the season, it was the weakness at the end, and there are no serious personnel changes to suggest better days in 2013.
Detroit really does only one thing well, and it’s give quarterback Matthew Stafford enough time to find Calvin Johnson down the field. In spite of throwing the ball more than anyone in the league, the line ranked in the top ten in sacks allowed, and Johnson had a monster year with over 1,900 yards receiving.
But there was precious little support. The Lions did not run the ball well, Stafford threw too many interceptions and the quarterback did not get his other receivers involved in the offense enough. Detroit made a good signing when they got Reggie Bush. It’s something that will at least give them a running threat, and Bush is a good receiver out of the backfield. Of course he’s also on his third team in the league, so if he were that unstoppable, he wouldn’t have been available.
The smart money in Las Vegas has posted an Over/Under win prop of 7.5 for Detroit. I understand the logic behind this number—it’s essentially a straight-up bet on whether the Lions will finish .500, and they have enough talent to make that a valid proposition.
My problem is that, at absolute minimum, Detroit has to double its win total. I’m not saying that can’t happen, but are you comfortable with a wager that has doubling the wins as a prerequisite for success? I’m not, so TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis will settle on the Under.