The Detroit Lions came into the 2014 season with high expectations under first year head coach Jim Caldwell and they delivered with an 11-5 regular season. While it wasn’t enough to finish ahead of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, they made it back the playoffs as a Wild Card.

The Lions ended up losing on the road to the Dallas Cowboys 20-24, leaving them still searching for their first playoff win since 1991 (lost 8 straight). Now the challenge becomes getting back to the postseason in consecutive seasons, something they haven’t done in 20 years.

Last Season
NFC North
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
2nd
11-5
7-9
5-3
2-6
5-11
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
19th
2nd
+7
20.1
17.6
2015 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
Laken Tomlinson (OG), Ameer Abdullah (RB), Alex Carter (CB), Gabe Wright (DT), Michael Burton (FB), Quandre Diggs (CB), Corey Robinson (OT)
Additions
Haloti Ngata (DT), Tyrunn Walker (DT), Josh Wilson (CB), Manuel Ramirez (C)
Losses
Ndamukong Suh (DT), Nick Fairley (DT), Reggie Bush (RB), Dominic Raiola (C), C.J. Mosley (DT), Ashlee Palmer (OLB), Darryl Tapp (DE), Cassius Vaughn (CB), Rob Sims (OG), Garrett Reynolds (OT), Kellen Davis (TE), Jed Collins (FB), Dan Orlovsky (QB), George Johnson (DE), Andre Fluellen (DT)
2015 Schedule & Odds
Week Opponent Spread Win Chance
1 @ Chargers +1.5 0.47
2 @ Vikings PK 0.50
3 Broncos PK 0.50
4 @ Seahawks +6 0.29
5 Cardinals -1.5 0.53
6 Bears -5 0.68
7 Vikings -5 0.68
8 @ Chiefs -1 0.51
9 BYE
10 @ Packers +5 0.32
11 Raiders -8.5 0.80
12 Eagles -2 0.53
13 Packers PK 0.50
14 @ Rams +1.5 0.47
15 @ Saints PK 0.50
16 49ers -1.5 0.53
17 @ Bears PK 0.50
Estimated Wins: 8.31
Roster Breakdown

The offense might not have been as potent as what some had envisioned, given they have a talented quarterback in Matthew Stafford and one of the elite receivers in the game in Calvin Johnson. Detroit finished 2014 ranked just 19th in total offense (340.8 ypg) and 22nd in scoring (20.1 ppg).

As it’s been for several years, the offense was centered around the passing game, which finished 12th in the league with 251.9 ypg. The Lions didn’t have much of a choice but to air it out, as they managed just 88.9 ypg (28th) on the ground.

Getting a more balanced attack is a priority and Detroit used their first two picks in the draft to try and improve their rushing attack. They used their 1st round pick on Duke’s Laken Tomlinson, who is expected to start right away at left guard. The Lions followed that up by using their 2nd round pick on Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah.

It will be interesting to see who emerges as the feature back. The Lions lost Reggie Bush in free agency, but bring back Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. It will likely come down to Bell and Abdullah and don’t be surprised if the rookie wins the job and surprises.

Tomlinson should help solidify an offensive line that played poorly in 2014. Not only did they struggle to produce running lanes, but Stafford was sacked a career-high 45 times. The key will be the play of 2nd-year center Travis Swanson, who must play well in place of the departed Dominic Raiola. Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle return on the outside at tackle.

An improved running game and better pass protection could pose big problems for opposing defenses, as they have to pay extra special attention to Johnson. While Johnson gets all the attention, and rightfully so, No. 2 wide out Golden Tate actually led the team in both receptions (99) and yards (1,033) in 2014. Both Johnson and Tate will remain the focal points of the passing game, though they are hoping to get more out of promising 2nd year tight end Eric Ebron.

While the offense looks to be in good shape, there were some noticeable changes made to one of the league’s top defenses from last year. Detroit ranked 2nd in total defense (300.9 ypg), 3rd in scoring defense (17.6 ppg) and 1st in run defense (69.3 ypg).

Instead of placing the franchise tag on Ndamukong Suh, Detroit decided to let him go in free agency. They also departed with their next two best defensive tackles in Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosely. They were however, able to make a trade with the Baltimore Ravens to land talented veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The Lions also added in Tyrunn Walker from New Orleans, who they are counting on to play well next to Ngata. Both starters are back at defensive end in veteran Jason Jones and emerging 3rd-year player Ezekiel Ansah.

At linebacker Detroit could see some improvements as both middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch and rookie strong-side linebacker Kyle Van Noy both missed considerable time. Tulloch played in just 3 and Van Noy missed half the year. If both can stay healthy, the Lions could have an underrated trio in the middle of the field, as DeAndre Levy emerged into one of the top 4-3 outside linebackers in 2014.

The secondary returns All-Pro free safety Glover Quin, the starting corner duo of veteran Rashean Mathis and youngster Darius Slay, as well as strong safety James Ihedigbo. The big concern here is a lack of depth and the fear of Mathis suffering a steep decline at the age of 35 (turns 35 in August).

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl L
8.5
16 to 1
44 to 1
Odds Courtesty of 5Dimes
Projections

Unfortunately for the Lions, they play in the same division as Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, which means they will likely have to secure a Wild Card spot if they want to get back to the playoffs. It wouldn’t surprise me if that ended up happening, but I think Detroit is going to regress some in 2015.

Even though they replaced Suh with Ngata, I believe his departure is going to have the Lions defense going from one of the best to middle of the pack. You simply can’t underestimate the impact that a player like Suh has on a defense. He made everyone else around him better and I just don’t see a 31-year-old Ngata having that same impact.

The Lions also face a difficult schedule, especially early in the year. They open with 3 of their first 4 on the road against the Chargers, Vikings and Seahawks, while also having to host the Broncos and Cardinals in the first 5 weeks of the season. I think it’s going to set the tone for a disappointing 2015 campaign. I have Detroit finishing a mere 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

NFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
3rd
3-3
8-8
UNDER 8.5
Lions 10-Year Recap
Year W L Playoffs Coach Win Total
2014 11 5 Lost WC Caldwell 8.5
2013 7 9 Schwartz 8
2012 4 12 Schwartz 9
2011 10 6 Lost WC Schwartz 8
2010 6 10 Schwartz 5
2009 2 14 Schwartz 4.5
2008 0 16 Marinelli 6.5
2007 7 9 Marinelli 6
2006 3 13 Marinelli 7
2005 5 11 Mariucci/Jauron 8

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