The Detroit Lions are coming off a 2011 season that pumped the blood back into the city of Detroit, after going 10-6 and making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Expectations for the Detroit Lions are high for the 2012 season, as well they should be. The Lions went a decade being the bottom-feeders of the league, taking high draft picks, and now, they reap the benefits. The benefits being a nucleus of talent that any General Manager would love to pilot to a SuperBowl.
Matthew Stafford went from being an injury prone quarterback with great intangibles, to one of four 5000-yard-passers in a season ever.
Calvin Johnson has signed his mega deal, loves long walks on the beach, classy women and scoring touchdowns.
Ndamukong Suh, Louis Delmas and Nick Fairley, all defensive draft pics with game changing abilities are only getting better and smarter.
This core group that led Detroit to their playoff appearence against the New Orleans Saints is now another year older, with the experience of losing a playoff game under their belt. The NFL draft has paid great dividends for the Lions and it appears the 2012 draft shows promise too.
Lions 2012 Draft
Instead of drafting a cornerback with their first round pick, the Lions went with the “value pick” AKA “best player available” and took offensive tackle Riley Reiff from Iowa. If you dont know much about the Lions, you’re probably thinking they should have undoubtedly drafted a defensive player seeing that is where the needs are. But, if you do follow the Lions you know that the starting left-tackle is Jeff Backus. Jeff Backus is old. He loves to commit penalties and false-starts in pivotal spots in games. Jeff Backus is a muppet. Reiff will be a solid NFL tackle for the next decade and Lions fans should be excited to replace ole’ boy Backus.
In the second round the Lions decided to go with the “sexy pick” with wide-reciever Ryan Broyles out of Oklahoma. I like this pick as well. Why not throw some insurance on the money you paid Megatron and give teams a different weapon to focus on? If your paying Calvin Johnson that much paper, you want him to see less double and triple teams. Broyles is a slot guy who has a high football IQ and filthy speed. Yes Broyles has already had an ACL surgery, but without that injury, many experts had him as a first round talent. Again, the Lions went with value over needs.
Finally, the Lions drafted defensive-backs in round 3 with Dwight Bentley out of Louisana-Lafayette, round 5 with Chris Greenwood from Albion, and round 6 with Jonte Green from New Mexico State. There are several raw intangibles that these three collectivly posses including speed, size, length, and run-stopping ability, that hopefully one of them can join Chris Houston and Aaron Berry to solidify the cornerback situation in that Detroit secondary. The Lions defense was torched for 45 points by the Saints in the postseason, something that cant happen if you expect to make a SuperBowl appearance.
Living in Detroit allows me to get a high dosage of optimism from the fans of this Lions team. Over the last few years, I constantly find myself explaining one simple reason I never over-hype the pre-season expectations for the Lions: The NFC North is pretty damn tough! When you play the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Adrian Peterson twice a year, its going to be a difficult.
Week 2 features the Lions rematch with San Francisco, this time in Candlestick Park. This is the first times these teams will see each other since the infamous Schwartz-Harbaugh…whatever you want to call it. You know the Niners have this game circled on their calander as well.
Week 7 is the Monday Night Football beauty at Soldier Field against Jay Cutler, the newly acquired Brandon Marshall and the Bears. This is a monster game that will have divisonal implications when its all said and done. If the Bears werent plagued by injuries last season, they would have surely made some noise in the playoffs.
Week 14 is a Sunday night affair in Green Bay at Lambeau Field against the Packers and that dude named Aaron Rodgers. Yes, the one who puts the air championship belt on whenever he rushes for a touchdown. More playoff implications.
The Lions also face the Eagles, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Falcons, all NFC foes who have their sites set on the playoffs as well.
The Lions rushed for under 100 yards a game last season, ranking 29th in the league. This can be accredited to the season-long injury of promising 2011 draft pick, Mikel Leshoure. If Jahvid Best, Leshoure, and Kevin Smith cant get the run game established, Detroit could become too one-dimensional against the stellar defenses they will see this season.
The Packers and the Bears are too good for me to propel Detroit to the front of the division. Detroit finishes 10-6 with a chance to knock anyone off come playoff time.
Paul Bentley is a contributor to Rant Sports
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