Justin Rogers, Rod Beard, James Hawkins, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News predict how the Detroit Lions will fare under first-year coach Matt Patricia in 2018.
Justin Rogers: I broke it down, game-by-game, earlier this week and had the Lions finishing 7-9. You can make a convincing argument half their games are coin flips, so we shouldn't be all that surprised if the Lions find a way into the postseason. Success will ultimately hinge on the offensive line staying relatively healthy and Matt Patricia shaping the defense into a capable unit earlier than the unit's preseason performance suggested. In the end, there are too many question marks for my taste to project something so bold. Record: 7-9
Rod Beard: The Lions are waiting to make the big jump to being a perennial playoff team, but if the preseason is any indication, they'll stay in perennial purgatory. There's renewed optimism in the new Matt Patricia era but the tangible results will have to follow quickly, especially in the pass rush. The defense is shaky and the offense will have to generate a respectable running game behind a tattered offensive line. The rest of the division got better; it's on the Lions to do the same. Record: 7-9
James Hawkins: Matt Patricia’s arrival from New England was met with hope that he can help the Lions escape their mediocre ways and do something the six coaches before him couldn’t — win the division and a playoff game. The Lions made aggressive moves to fix their woeful run game — drafting Kerryon Johnson and Frank Ragnow and signing LeGarrette Blount — but there are concerns about the team’s run defense, pass rush and overall improvement. While Patricia will likely have to navigate a learning curve during his first year as a head coach, Matthew Stafford will still give him and the Lions a chance to win every week. It just might not be much of a chance, though, to contend with the surging Vikings and a healthy Aaron Rodgers in the NFC North. Record: 8-8
John Niyo: It's hard to ignore how bad the Lions' defense looked for much of the preseason. And maybe this scheme change is going to take more time for the players to grasp than anticipated. Still, I'm not convinced the Lions' schedule is as difficult as many are making it out to be. Couple that with a belief the offense will be more balanced and efficient in critical areas and there's no reason Matt Patricia's team can't contend for a wild-card spot. I just don't see enough playmakers on defense to get them over the hump in the NFC. Record: 9-7
Bob Wojnowski: If you were expecting some clarity from the preseason, sorry, all the Lions’ pressing issues are still there. The defense remains a mystery, the pass rush remains a huge concern, and the offensive line remains, ahem, a work in progress. The Lions again are pinning most of their hopes on Matthew Stafford, but I think Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount have legitimately upgraded the running game. Unless Matt Patricia has been holding back and can spin some magic with the defense, the Lions remain smack in the middle of the pack. Record: 8-8