Allen Park — The experts have seemed unusually cruel to the Lions this preseason.
Not that he cares, but third-year linebacker Jarrad Davis said it would just take a few good weeks of football to rise the tide of the narrative of this year’s team.
“The boat in the ocean, it changes,” Davis said Wednesday on the eve of training camp. “The waves rise, the waves fall. It’s the same thing with predictions and everything like that.”
Some experts are projecting the Lions to capsize in coach Matt Patricia’s second season. Nate Davis of USA Today has the Lions at a league-worst 3-13. Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated’s "Monday Morning Quarterback" picks them at 4-12. Sin City isn’t much sweeter.
After a 6-10 mark in Patricia’s first season, Westgate Sportsbook set the Lions over-under win total at 6.5 — the lowest in the NFC North, 2.5 games behind Chicago, Green Bay and Minnesota, who are all pegged at nine wins.
“For me, growing up playing the sport, I’ve never really paid attention to predictions,” Davis said. “You can’t really listen to those things because it’ll ultimately set mental barriers in your mind. For me, I just go out and I put in the work every single day.”
It’s important to note that betting lines aren’t set with predictions of results in mind, but with predictions of bets. By setting the over-under at 6.5, oddsmakers figure a similar amount of bettors will bet for the Lions than against the Lions, minimizing their risk.
But by the public or by the pros, there's a perception problem with the Lions.
Davis believes a hot streak, or even one good week, could change the fickle narrative.
“You can go out and you have the best game this week and surprise a lot of people, and those same people that said that you didn’t have the ability to do that, now they're gonna say, ‘Oh man, they can do this now. This guy, he’s this and he’s that,’” he said. "It’s going to keep changing. So to follow that and to mold your game off of predictions and what people’s thoughts are, it’s going to affect you and you’re not going to be consistent.
“So that’s why I try to stay away from predictions.”
Still, Davis admits that slights can be gathered and harnessed. With the Lions' history of recent failure — and the past several decades, for that matter — it can make them an easy target.
“It’s just something that you always keep in the back of your head,” Davis said. “So you got to remember, when you’re down and when you’re out, people are going to talk mess about you. They’re going to say that you ain’t this or you ain’t that.
“But when you come up and you put the work in, you really rise to the occasion and show people what you’re made of, you got to remember that.”
Linebackers coach Al Golden, who spent more than 20 years at the college level with head coaching stops at Temple and Miami (Fla.), said reading predictions is more of a kids game.
“I think the pros, they just go to work,” Golden said. “The same things with coaches.
“I don’t know how many coaches really watch 'SportsCenter' or the 'NFL Network' or anything. We’re too busy trying to provide the content, if you will. From that standpoint, we really don’t focus on that. Where we get picked is not really our responsibility. Where we finish is our responsibility.”
Davis said, as a leader, he needs to make sure the Lions aren’t impacted by the negativity.
“If they do, I just try to show them that, 'Hey, that don’t matter,'” he said. “It don’t matter what anybody has to say about who I am or who you are or who we are. It’s about what we want to do.
“We have to go out and make that happen.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.