Detroit Lions should be respected as NFC contender

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions are no longer undefeated but have more than earned respect as a possible contender coming out of the NFC in 2019.

Coming off of a Week 1 tie with the Cardinals, most fans were dismissive of the Detroit Lions. Despite the improvements Matt Patricia and his team made in the offseason, the team looked to be another middling group that would fall behind in a loaded NFC North. But coming off of Week 4, even if it was their first loss of the 2019 season, no one should be dismissing the Lions.

On Sunday, the Lions put forth the best effort that we’ve seen against the undefeated Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs this season. Patricia’s defense made Patrick Mahomes look human, throwing 18 incompletions on 42 attempts and not throwing a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford and Kerryon Johnson were grooving, the former throwing for just shy of 300 yards with three scores while the latter had 125 yards on six carries. And if not for some late-game heroics by Mahomes, the Lions would be 3-0-1 with everyone talking about them.

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But everyone should still be talking about this team. As has been said many times, you should never overreact to Week 1. That seems especially true with the Lions as they had a big lead then took their foot off the gas against the Cardinals and then couldn’t get back up to speed.

In the three weeks since the season-opening tie, though, the Lions have done nothing but deliver. The defense was lights-out in a grinding win over the Chargers in Week 2 before going on the road to Philadelphia and handling their business against the Eagles the following week. Then, of course, they went toe-to-toe with a team many would call the best in the NFL right now.

When you look at how the Lions are succeeding right now, it’s very much reminiscent of the Patriots teams that spawned Patricia getting the head coaching job in Detroit. There are some big-name talents like Stafford and Trey Flowers, sure. But for the most part, this is a team with middle-of-the-road talent where everyone is just playing their specific role.

Guys like Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay are not top-10 or maybe top-20 wide receivers in the NFL. Johnson is not a top-10 running back. Yet, with strong offensive line play and a stud quarterback, the Lions have consistently made plays and moved the ball. On top of that, the defense isn’t perfect but they make plays and can do enough to slow down even the best of offenses.

According to Football Outsiders, the Lions offense is currently 13th in Offensive DVOA and 10th in Defensive DVOA, which ranks efficiency on both sides of the ball. And that’s what we’re seeing with this Lions team. They aren’t spectacular in any facet of the game but they are above average across the board. And that’s good enough to win a lot of football games.

The NFC is loaded in the 2019 season. From the Green Bay Packers to Dallas Cowboys to Los Angeles Rams to many more, there are numerous contenders. The Lions, however, should be in that category. With the way the roster is built and the team is designed and coached under Patricia, there aren’t weaknesses and they can compete with anyone in the league.

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A 2-1-1 record might not ring that impressive but, in the case of Detroit, it is. They have acquitted themselves exactly as they’ve needed to up to this point. And as they head into their bye week ahead of key divisional matchups at the Packers and at home for the Vikings, they’ll be primed to prove just how for real they are.