Things could certainly change just two games into the season, but based on what we’ve seen so far, Lions fans should prepare for the legitimate possibility of this team starting 0-5.
And the truth is, everyone should’ve seen this coming.
Lions coaches, players and executives talked all offseason about how they’d be able to overcome the loss of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, one of the best defensive players in franchise history, but it was clear the No. 2-ranked defense would take a step back. So far, the Lions rank 30th in yards allowed per game (416.5) and 28th in points allowed per game (29.5), and it’s hard to assume DeAndre Levy’s presence would’ve been enough for them to win either game.
Meanwhile, the Lions were counting on a younger offensive line to make the offense potent after a consistently lackluster performance in 2014. Center Dominic Raiola and left guard Rob Sims struggled mightily last year, but at least the Lions could count on them to avoid mental mistakes. Right now, the youth is clearly causing problems as left guard Manny Ramirez, the only one older than 26, is the only lineman who’s played two good games.
The Lions already have lost to the two worst opponents in their first five games, granted winning in San Diego and Minnesota is never easy. Next, they host a Denver team that has a good enough defense to overshadow quarterback Peyton Manning’s shortcomings and is coming off extra rest after playing last Thursday.
Then, the Lions go to Seattle for a Monday night showdown at a stadium in which the Seahawks have lost just twice the last three years. In Week 5, the Lions host the Cardinals, who have plenty of defensive pieces to limit Detroit’s offense.
Before anyone reads the rest of this with animosity toward the NFL schedule-makers, remember the Lions have a road game for the second straight year in London, giving them a neutral field instead of playing at Kansas City’s difficult Arrowhead Stadium. They also have two stretches of three-straight home games.
Week 2 was a prime example that any team can win on any given Sunday. The Raiders beat the Ravens, the Jaguars beat the Dolphins and Washington and Cleveland somehow won games, too.
But the Lions, like the other 0-2 teams including the Seahawks, now face the long odds of overcoming an early hole. Since 1990, only 24 of the 205 teams that started 0-2 have made the postseason, according to MLive.com. That’s a cool 11.7 percent.
Looking ahead, just three teams have started 0-3 and made the postseason, including the 1995 Lions who finished 10-6. The 1992 Chargers are the only team to overcome an 0-4 start to reach the playoffs after finishing 11-5.
So if the Lions start 0-5, the playoffs would probably have to wait until 2016. Fortunately for the fans, the Lions likely wouldn’t wilt after such a start. For all of the coaching issues that have occurred the first two weeks, Jim Caldwell’s week-to-week approach has extended to most of the players in the locker room.
If the Lions are 0-5, they would legitimately think they could finish 11-5, but would focus on improving to 1-5, then 2-5, then 3-5 and on down the line.
“I’ve got to do a better job of getting these guys ready to go,” Caldwell said Monday. “I’ve got do a better job of getting these guys performing consistently across the board and we’re going to get that done.”
The Lions have to get that done in a hurry. If they don’t, these injuries to quarterback Matthew Stafford will surely get worse Sunday night when Broncos pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware come to Ford Field.
Having Levy back for the Seattle game is probably the only chance the Lions have to limit a Seahawks offense with a top tight end, Jimmy Graham, and running quarterback, Russell Wilson. Arizona, meanwhile, will probably have the best secondary of any team the Lions face in the first five games, and they already refuse to throw the ball deep.
Yes, the Lions could win any or all of the next three games, but if they play anything like the first two games, particularly in the trenches, the 0-5 nightmare could soon become a reality.
Around the NFC North
The Vikings crushed the Lions, 26-16, obviously. They’re 1-1 now, and running back Adrian Peterson looks like he’ll be the guy he was before missing most of 2014.
… Aaron Rodgers proved why he’s the best quarterback in the NFL in the Packers’ 27-17 win over the Seahawks on Sunday night. In the fourth quarter, he was 9 of 9 for 91 yards and had the go-ahead touchdown pass with 9:28 left. Also, the Green Bay defense held Seattle to 17 points.
… The Bears (0-2) might be worse than advertised defensively. They lost at home, 48-23, to a Cardinals team that was missing starting running back Andre Ellington. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a hamstring injury, and as many jokes as people will make about him getting hurt on a pick-6, his absence — for however long — won’t make anything easier.
Around the NFL
The Cowboys won’t have to make the decision immediately, but there’s a chance Kellen Moore will be active for the first time in his career next Sunday. With Tony Romo suffering a broken collarbone in Week 2, Brandon Weeden will be the starter, and Dallas might promote Moore or Jameill Showers from the practice squad. Get ready, Boise!
... Plenty of people were so quick to poke fun at No. 1 pick Jameis Winston when his Buccaneers were trounced in Week 1. Proving yet again that it’s always too early to overreact to rookies, Winston was a sharp 14 of 21 for 207 yards with one touchdown in leading Tampa Bay to a road win over the Saints Sunday.
… Like most teams that have to play the reigning Super Bowls champs in Week 1, the Steelers had no chance to win their season opener. But after a 43-18 win over the 49ers in Week 2, Pittsburgh looks like it could have one of the league’s scariest offenses. Top running back Le’Veon Bell (Michigan State) and No. 2 receiver Martavis Bryant haven’t even played yet.