The Detroit Lions are coming off a 9-7 season in which they failed to make the playoffs. The Lions were a distant 2nd in the NFC North, as the Minnesota Vikings ran away with the division at 13-3. Detroit was also 1-game back of the Atlanta Falcons for the final Wild Card spot in the NFC.
Despite delivering the franchises first back-to-back winning seasons since 1994-95, head coach Jim Caldwell was fired. Caldwell got the Lions to the playoffs twice in his four years with the team (lost both Wild Card matchups) and finished with an overall record of 36-28.
His replacement is Matt Patricia, who has been with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots since 2004, serving as their defensive coordinator since 2012.
As you would expect with a head coaching change, there were plenty of changes made to the coaching staff. However, Patricia did decide to keep offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. The new defensive coordinator is Paul Pasqualoni, who spent the last 2 years as a d-line coach at Boston College.
As has been the case for years under starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, Detroit’s offense put up respectable numbers behind their passing attack. The Lions ranked 7th in scoring at 25.6 ppg and 13th in total yards at 337.8 ypg. They had the 6th ranked passing attack (261.4 ypg) compared to the 32nd ranked rushing attack (76.3 ypg).
For the most part the offense will look the same. The two biggest departures were tight end Eric Ebron and center Travis Swanson. Both holes have been filled. Detroit signed Luke Wilson and Levine Toilolo to compete for the starting gig at tight end, while using their 1st round (No. 20) on Arkansas center Frank Ragnow.
The two other notable additions on offense were both at running back. They added veteran LeGarrrette Blount in free agency and used their 2nd round pick on Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson.
Defensively is where you are going to really notice some big changes. The Lions are expected to use multiple defensive fronts (both 3-4 and 4-3), similar to what we have seen with Patriots over the years. Versatility will be something that is talked about a lot, as players won’t be locked into just one positions, especially in the front 7.
Some big names that won’t be around this year on this side of the ball include Haloti Ngata (DT), Tahir Whitehead (LB), and Paul Worrilow. The Lions added Sylvester Williams to fill the void left by Ngata, while adding linebackers Devon Kennard and Christian Jones in free agency. They also had a nice signing at corner in DeShawn Shead.
Will Patricia be able to get the Lions over the hump in year one, like we saw last year with Sean McVay and the Rams or is this going to be a process that takes a year or two? That’s the big question that Lion’s fans are wondering going into the 2018 campaign.
2018 Lions Schedule & Projected Odds
Below you will find the early odds released by Vegas for Weeks 1-16, as well as my projected number for Week 17. Using the lines we are able to give a game-by-game win probability, which we used to come up an expected win total.
Projected Wins: 7.19
Over/Under Wins Prediction: UNDER 7.5
This was one of the tougher projections for me to make, as it wouldn’t come as a big surprise at all to see Detroit finish at 8-8. With that said, if I had to take a side, I would lean towards the Lions going 7-9 or worse.
I know Detroit has a top tier talent at quarterback in Stafford, but there’s just too many uncertainties here for me. Can the Lions figure out a way to balance the offense and get more out of the running game? Is one offseason enough for Patricia to install the multiple look defense and does he have the right personnel to excite it at a high level.? Not to mention the trend of former Belichick assistants flopping as head coaches.
You also have to keep in mind that last year’s 9-7 record wasn’t all it was made out to be. Detroit’s only win over a playoff team was against division rival Minnesota. They did have two wins over Green Bay, but both came with Aaron Rodgers sidelined. The other six wins were against the Cardinals, Giants, Browns, Bears (twice) and Bucs.
The Lions have also not typically been a great road team and that’s a cause for concern. Most of their winnable games are on the road, while the home schedule is brutal outside of their Week 1 showdown with the Jets on Monday Night Football. On top of having to host both Minnesota and Green Bay, Detroit will also welcome the Patriots, Seahawks, Panthers and Rams to Ford Field.
Odds to Win the Super Bowl: +5500
As you might have guessed, I won’t be placing in Super Bowl wagers on Detroit this year. For those wondering, the Lions are tied with the Titans and Ravens with the 19th best odds to win it all at +5500.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s unlikely Detroit wins the NFC North with powers like Green Bay and Minnesota at the top. That means for them to just reach the Super Bowl they would have to win 3 straight on the road. That’s a pretty tall task to ask for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991.
Odds to Win the NFC: +1800
Detroit has the 10th best odds out of the 16 teams that make up the NFC at +1800. They are behind the likes of the Eagles, Packers, Rams, Vikings, Saints, Falcons, 49ers, Panthers and Cowboys.
Aside from maybe the 49ers, who I feel are a bit overrated going into 2018, I believe all of those other teams are better than the Lions. Even if a few of those were to disappoint and the Lions snuck into the playoffs, I don’t trust them to win in the postseason.
Odds to Win the NFC North: +650
If you are high on the Lions and want to place a future wager on them, this might be your best option. However, I think the only way it happens is if both the Packers and Vikings are hit hard with injuries. Something I’m simply not willing to bank on.