The following is the second in a four-part series breaking down why the other teams in the NFC North won’t be contenders this season. (The Packers get two parts.)
You can argue Favre or Rodgers. You can say Moss in his prime or Adrian Peterson. Steve Smith for sure. There are plenty of players who’ve had success over the Bears in the modern era. But no player, not any of those previously mentioned, seemed as consistently unstoppable as Calvin Johnson. If the ball was in the air and Johnson was the target, it was just assumed to be a big play.
A quote from Matthew Stafford at ESPN:
“I think we’re going to do it a little bit differently than we have the in the past,” Stafford said during an interview Tuesday with SiriusXM Radio. “Obviously we used to feature Calvin, and everybody kind of got theirs after that. It’s going to be, I think, tougher for defenses in a certain way in that they don’t know who we’re going to. There’s no guy to key in on.”
Note to Mr. Stafford. In no way will the Lions be more difficult to defend without Johnson. That’s like saying it’ll be easier to make a dinner choice at the Billy Goat once they take burgers (or in this case, borgers) off the menu.
There are four additional reasons I think the Lions are staring at last place in the NFC North.
- They were only a game better than the Bears a year ago during a season where one team was rebuilding and the other had preseason Super Bowl buzz. The Bears enter 2016 with a far more talented roster. (So do Minnesota and Green Bay.)
- Outside of Ezekiel Ansah and a never-healthy DeAndre Levy, does the Lions defense has an impact player? Last year they were 23rd in points allowed. Not much reason to believe that unit will improve.
- Jim Caldwell. Seems like a nice guy. Not a very good coach. And young GM Bob Quinn made the cardinal sin of keeping a coach because the players like him. I’d be surprised if Caldwell isn’t looking for a new gig come January.
- I keep coming back to the two games they played against the Bears. Detroit won both contests, one at the death of overtime and the other a Week 17 affair where the Bears had ME backing up the right guard. In neither game did this supposedly superior group look superior.
5-11. Last place.