The 2014 NFL season is fast approaching and at Top Bet we’re breaking down the moves and upgrades each team in the league has made since 2013. Today, the Detroit Lions of the NFC North. For a complete sense of the division, check out the offseason reports for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
The Detroit Lions went from the driver’s seat in the NFC North to out of the playoffs in a disastrous final month last season, which cost head coach Jim Schwartz his job. Will a coaching change also spell a change in the talented Lions’ fortunes this season?[sc:”Football Articles” ]
Detroit Lions Team Preview for the 2014/2015 NFL Season
2013 Regular Season Record: 7-9 SU/6-10 ATS
The Detroit Lions were looking good for only their second trip to the playoffs in the 21st century last season.
Heading into Week 14 with a record of 7-5, led by the one-two punch of quarterback Matthew Stafford (4,650 passing yards and 29 TDs) and wide receiver Calvin Johnson (84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 TDs). And then they lost four straight to miss the playoffs.
[sc:NFL240banner ]Despite the disappointing setback, Detroit returns a talented roster led by Stafford and Johnson on offense, with the imposing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on defense. If the Lions can avoid another Lions-esque collapse, they should be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC North.
Detroit immediately improved its chances in 2014 by firing Jim Schwartz. Although Schwartz brought the team to the playoffs in 2011, his teams regressed in the two succeeding seasons. Schwartz didn’t just fail to bring his team to the playoffs in back-to-back years, but he also made the team’s offense overly aggressive. That aggression led to too many turnovers, which cost them in the final stretch of the season.
To fix the careless offense, Detroit took on a new head coach in Jim Caldwell. Caldwell coached Joe Flacco to a Super Bowl-winning performance and worked with Peyton Manning for a decade.
The Lions expect his wealth of experience to rub off on star quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Stafford’s passing helped Detroit become the third-best passing team last season, averaging 280.1 yards per game, but his decision-making can still be suspect. Caldwell should help Stafford improve his ball management while continuing to call a pass-heavy offense.
To provide their quarterback with more options, Detroit drafted tight end Eric Ebron, who had 973 yards on 63 receptions in his last year at North Carolina. With the size to outmuscle smaller defensive backs and the speed to allow him to outrun opposing linebackers, Ebron is a high-potential addition to Stafford’s passing arsenal.
The Lions also signed wide receiver Golden Tate from the Seattle Seahawks to play alongside Johnson. Tate’s safe pair of hands were a major contributor to the Super Bowl-winning team. In his 2011 season, he didn’t record a single drop in 68 receiving targets. Tate caught 64 passes for 898 yards last season, to lead the Seahawks.
Caldwell has brought in a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin to handle the team’s talented defense. Austin will look forward to incorporating new free agent signing, safety James Ihedigbo, and rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy into his defensive schemes for the upcoming season.
Key Betting Matchups of 2014 NFL Season
The Lions finished a very respectable 4-2 SU in the NFC North last season, and they’ll need to replicate that form in what promises to be another very competitive year in the division to break through and claim a playoff spot. These two particular home dates against the top dogs of the division will certainly be circled on their calendars.
September 21 – vs. Green Bay Packers
The Lions showed some promise dominating the Green Bay Packers 40-10 last year. However, the win was also their last before their downward spiral the Packers went on to win the division. The Lions match up well with the Packers, and will want to test Mike McCarthy’s newly-rebuilt pass defence before they get too established in September.
October 27 – vs. Chicago Bears
Detroit landed in third spot in the NFC North despite sweeping the Chicago Bears last season. If the Lions can replicate that success this season, it’s hard to imagine their result wouldn’t improve.
The Detroit Lions improve to .500 in the regular season, but key divisional losses keep them out of the playoffs and under their season win total of 8.5 wins.
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