2016 NFL Preview: Tempering expectations for the Detroit Lions

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The notion that anyone would have an expectation regarding the anticipated performance of the Detroit Lions so high it required public tempering is facially preposterous, especially considering that this is a team that made major coaching and administrative changes in the middle of last season and, going forward, will be without its generational talent, who opted for an early retirement over even one more game with this team.

Yet this is the time of every calendar year when Lions fans’ memories wane to their very shortest. Who’s Calvin Johnson? What’s coaching and management stability? We’ve got Jim Bob Cooter and Zombie Anquan Boldin!

I want the Lions to win every game, and I know that, each Sunday (/Monday/Thursday/Saturday sometimes/Tuesday maybe?), no team will look better on the gridiron than the Silver and Honolulu Blue Crew.

As recklessly optimistic as Lions fans may be at this time of year– which may be the happiest, relatively speaking, since they haven’t yet lost a regular season game– however, there are a few Coors Light Cold Hard Facts with which they need to reckon.   Continue reading

Matthew Stafford among NFL’s most-improved QBs in the second half of 2015

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In early November, after the Detroit Lions dumped their offensive coordinator, general manager, and team president, I wrote that people using those events as an opportunity to suggest that the team would be better off without Matt Stafford were wrong.

Those moves seemed to spark new life into the scuffling Lions, and while they remain out of the playoff picture for 2015, there are some signs that this won’t be an entirely wasted season.

According to data recently posted at FiveThirtyEight,* Stafford is among the most improved quarterbacks in the season’s second half:

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* QBR and ANY/A data compiled through December 22.

Stafford accomplished this without a corresponding increase in throws to top receiver Calvin Johnson, which is evidence that OC Jim Bob Cooter’s new offensive scheme is about more than looking out for no. (8)1. Stafford’s improved numbers also could reflect a positive regression to his true talent level, as well as signal indirect improvement in the team’s offensive line. (On that front, the numbers are a bit mixed, showing minor decreases in sack rate and yards lost due to sacks, while fumbles lost held steady, and fumbles increased in the second half of the season.)

2015 obviously has not been the best season for Stafford or the Lions, but the team would be foolish to part ways with their starting quarterback. A better second half from the former top overall draft pick should help to ensure that he stays in Detroit.

On a Northbound Train: ALDLAND Goes Live to Green Bay for Lions-Packers

The Detroit Lions currently own the longest road losing streak by any team against a single opponent in NFL history, having lost twenty-four games across twenty-three years to the Packers in Green Bay. That streak is on the line again this Sunday, when the Lions play at Lambeau Field, and we will be on the ground to take in the full experience.

Breaking this losing streak will be an uphill climb for these Lions. Their 1-7 record obviously compares unfavorably to the Packers’ 6-2 mark, and there is little reason to believe those records significantly misrepresent the true talent of these teams, at least in a comparative sense.

Still, there are reasons for the Honolulu blue crew to be hopeful this week. The Packers, after starting 5-0, have lost two straight games, both away, dropping their road record this season to 2-2. Their home in Lambeau is the NFL’s original Frozen Tundra, but this November Sunday is shaping up to be a balmy one by Upper Midwestern standards, at least reminiscent of Denver and Carolina’s outdoor stadia, where the Packers just lost, if not quite the Lions’ current temperature-controlled den.

The Packers do have weaknesses. For example, no NFL team has a worse three-and-out rate in 2015, something that should offer the Detroit defense an opportunity to slow down Aaron Rodgers & co. And Rodgers’ company is in flux this season. Top receiver Jordy Nelson is out for the year due to a preseason injury, and Green Bay has yet to find consistency in the run game. This week, they demoted starter Eddie Lacy in favor of his backup, James Starks, although indications are that both backs will see action Sunday. On defense, the Packers’ recent losses also have some believing that the team is susceptible to a deep passing attack.

With an offense that continues to feature Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, a deep passing attack is exactly what the Lions should be emphasizing. Following the major shakeups in the coaching staff and front office in the last two weeks, it looks like this is precisely Detroit’s plan. New offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has been playing to his side’s strengths so far, and while Johnson has been limited in practice this week due to an ankle injury, there’s no indication that he’ll be unavailable Sunday.

On paper, things don’t look too good for the Lions this week, but then again, they almost never have. And besides, this game will be played on a not-so-chilly patch of Wisconsin greengrass, not paper. Anything could happen. We’ll be there to watch what happens happen. If you won’t, keep it tuned here and on twitter (@ALDLANDia) for crucial updates live from Green Bay.