2016 NFL Expert Predictions For Detroit Lions

Posted by Joe Solari on July 22, 2016 in

In one of the biggest stories of cosmic plummets in the league last year, the Detroit Lions came from a stellar 11-5 season in 2014 to a pathetic 7-9 campaign in 2015, including 6 losses in the first 7 weeks of the season that led to the axing of several members of the team’s front office. It was, however, far from an all-bust season, as the team won 6 of its 8 games in the second half of the season, with the Lions particularly showing mega improvements in the offense under Jim Bob Cooter.

With star receiver Calvin Johnson a.k.a. Megatron retired and questions swirling around the league about how the Lions will manage without him, what will become of Cooter’s offense in 2016? What about Pro Bowl QB Mathew Stafford; can he have the sort of form that made him one of the most effective players in the second half of the season? And how about the Detroit defense that was shiftily up-and-down all season? Here’s everything you need to know about all that, plus the NFL odds and lines expectations for Detroit in 2016.

2016 NFL Expert Predictions For Detroit Lions



Roster and Playing Schemes Analysis

The Detroit Lions were expected to run the ball the ball quite efficiently in 2015 after drafting standout rookie RB Ameer Abdullah and signing undrafted rookie RB Zach Zenner. Unfortunately for Detroit, Zenner got injured in October and Abdullah didn’t light it up as expected, with Detroit finishing the season ranked dead-last in the league in rushing yards per game (83.4). The most elementary starting for Detroit in its quest for an improved season is to get its running game in order, particularly now that Megatron—Detroit’s most valuable offensive piece over the last many years—is no longer available, meaning Stafford will need all the help he can get from his running backs.

In the aerial game, we can’t point out a single go-to individual to replace Johnson, but the likes of Marvin Hones, Eric Ebron, Golden Tate and Theo Riddick should be able to offer interesting options for the team to work with. Meanwhile, Stafford (who finished the season with 4262 passing yards and 32 TDs after a tame start to the season) showed that he is still an elite passer; something that should orient confidence in his offensive targets, especially if the O-line can give him some much-needed protection and support.

Speaking of protection and support, it will be crucial for Detroit’s defense to get over the loss of Ndamukong Suh in 2015 and return to the basics that made them a feared unit in the NFC North, and the entire NFL, at large. In this regard, the mostly-young defenders in Detroit will need to follow in the footsteps of DE Ezekiel Ansah, who importantly (and impressively) recorded 14.5 sacks last season, good for third-best in the NFL.

Schedule and Divisional Preview

Like most teams in the NFC North, the Lions will have a soft strength of schedule in 2016—ranked fourth-easiest in the league—thanks to the fact that they will be facing members of the manageable NFC East and AFC South Divisions. Beating teams like Oakland, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco and Chicago down the stretch of the season didn’t really give us a good measure of Detroit’s strength, considering the fact that all these teams were having down seasons and finished below the .500 mark in 2015. That said, the Lions did beat Green Bay Packers by two points at the Lambeau Field, their first win their since 1991, so maybe there is some hope after all that Detroit will be able to handle its elite opponents this year. As things stand, though, it all looks fifty-fifty in terms of scheduling, with the prediction of a boom-or-bust type of situation for the Lions.


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Final Remarks and Early Detroit Season Total Prediction

Being without a star receiver could actually be a blessing in disguise for Stafford’s targets to up their game and the favorable schedule will do the team some good. Combine that with good coaching and you get a team that can challenge the .500 mark. But then again, with stiff competition in the NFC North, several huddles to jump outside the division, and barely any elite wins from last season to prove their potential in big game; I see a more-or-less similar season like in 2015.

Writer’s Pick: Detroit UNDER 8 Wins, Season Record: 7-9