It appears that 2011’s luster has lingered into 2013 for the Detroit Lions, as Vegas has rated them with a kind 7.5 regular-season win total. After watching the Lions fall behind by multiple scores in nearly every contest last season, it’s hard to view Detroit going .500 or above as a winning proposition.
Perhaps no quarterback in the NFL enjoyed as comfortable a pocket as Matthew Stafford last year, yet he ended with a 79.8 quarterback rating to show for it, good for 26th in the league. The Lions’ pass protection received the third-best Pro Football Focus grade in 2012 behind the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. Unlike those squads, Detroit will be losing the pieces of their offensive line that performed best last year, with left tackle Jeff Backus retiring and right tackle Gosder Cherilus leaving in free agency.
“I don’t expect a big change,” Stafford told MLive. “I don’t expect any kind of a drop-off. I think we’re extremely talented up front. … Any time you play quarterback, your dream is a perfect pocket every time. But let’s be honest, in the NFL, the defensive guys get paid to rush the passer.”
Detroit also lost guard Stephen Peterman, who might not hurt as much but still presents further loss in continuity. The Lions’ 2012 top draft pick in Riley Reiff will attempt to make the move from right side to blindside protector while position battles will ensue elsewhere.
Whether this all adds up to a winning formula will also depend hugely on whether this Detroit defense finally proves itself as a consistent force, which would help them avoid getting into desperate fourth-quarter deficits that merely serve to pad Stafford and Calvin Johnson‘s numbers. The Lions are receiving NFC North-low +750 division odds and rank just ahead of the Minnesota Vikings with 50-to-1 Super Bowl odds, depending where you look — but this kind of risk doesn’t seem worth the reward.