Football season is back! Kicking off the month means franchises attempt to get the last trades and contract agreements nailed down before the first spike. The preseason provided fans a look at what they can expect to see in the 2018 NFL regular season. It’s time to see who can get their hands on another Lombardi Trophy. While the main headlines this preseason are the early Super Bowl picks, there is one headline that has the league surprised. One team’s quarterback recently secured some debatable financial incentive to advance their playoff campaign.
Detroit Lions franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford,
went full Jerry Maguire when he nailed down a 5-year, 135 million dollar deal. The struggling Lions hope to motivate Stafford with some extra green in his back pocket after going 9-7; finishing second to the Green Bay Packers last year. It’s been over 25 years since the Lions last won a playoff game back in 1991. Adding insult to injury, every Wildcard game Detroit has appeared in they’ve lost, ranging from 1993 to 2016.
Stafford knew he could add value when he first signed with Detroit back when he was drafted first overall in 2009. It’s been 8 years since then and not much has changed. He was able to bring the Lions to 3 Wildcard games (‘11, ’14’, 16’), but has lost each time. The fight to claim the NFC North will be a tall order to ask of Stafford and the Lions. When their rival Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers finished with a record of 10-6 last season. They finished well with a six game winning streak and turned on the afterburners well into the playoffs. However, the Packers would then fall to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship. Detroit fans, along with Stafford and the rest of the offensive coordinators, need to a find a way and mimic this behavior. Winning.
Let’s take a look back at their most recent playoff game, the 2016 Wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks. For starters, Russell Wilson completed many more passes per attempt going 23 completed passes for 30 attempts. Compared to Stafford’s 18 for 32. The facts are clear, yards gained are yards gained. Secondly, all the points scored for the Lions during that game were all made by their kicker.
This is symptomatic of problems underlying in Detroit’s offense. Seattle bettered them in a vast array of categories that could be worked on. This includes total rushing, passing yards, first downs, efficiency made on plays, and more yards gained per offensive play. Making the crucial completions with wide receivers on passing plays and making the smart choices on when to rush the ball would substantially improve the Lions chances at winning the big games. Eventually leading to an improved win-loss record. “Like every other professional league, you make plays or you don’t make plays. And we didn’t make them.” That was Matthew Stafford’s response to a question asked at the post-game press conference following the defeat in the NFC Wildcard game.
Another point Stafford made was playing against Seattle’s heralded defense and explaining that was the reason why Detroit couldn’t stay on the field longer. This was either due to forced punts or a lack of third down conversions with an awful percentage of 18%. The offense isn’t entirely at fault, but a piece on the Lions defense would show they allowed the Seahawks to gain 82 yards in 8 plays. It’s not just bad luck to blame, but the team as a whole.
Can Stafford and the Lions turn things around? Detroit fans and I would like to think so. The NFC North hasn’t been a terribly strong conference for a few years.
Emerging out of it and into the postseason can very well happen with Detroit, but I don’t see them gaining more than 9 wins this year. The teams Detroit will play this season, I predict them going 8-8 finishing second behind Green Bay. Playoff contention for the Lions can be a reality if the focus on their offense and details are stressed enough. Stafford is still a young quarterback that can turn this Detroit around. If he can execute offensive plays well enough consistently, Detroit could very well give the Packers a run for their money.