The Detroit Lions have been one of the most perplexing and unpredictable teams of the past couple years. Their knack for pulling out close games they should have lost in 2011 and incredible inability to hold leads in 2012 baffles me.
But I have to disagree with Grantland’s Bill Barnwell on his assertion that the Lions are due to improve drastically upon their 4-12 mark from last season. Yes, I think Detroit will win more than four games because Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have all the talent and chemistry in the world, Reggie Bush is a perfect fit for this offense and the Ndamukong Suh-Nick Fairley might be the NFL‘s greatest defensive tackle wrecking ball right now.
Listening to Barnwell and Robert Mays’ daily 2013 NFL preview podcast for Grantland, I just disagreed with Barnwell’s commitment to regression when discussing the Lions on Monday’s show. Barnwell focused on the fact that Detroit went 3-8 in games decided by one score or less, and how this along with a couple other chaotic factors should spell a drastic improvement for Detroit — even predicting them to go 10-6 in 2013.
I would argue that many garbage-time scores helped to add five losses to that 3-8 one-score game total, making the “they lost most of their close, competitive close games” theory misleading. In fact, the Lions scored in the final minutes to make it look closer (one-score) in losses against the San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers once and both Chicago Bears games. In the waning moments of those contests, Detroit stood two scores from winning before bridging the gap to one score far, far too late.
So the Lions were actually 3-3 in a close contests, which works against them in the close game W-L “regression to mean” department.