If I were to ask you two years ago if the Detroit Lions would ever be good, you would say “no,” as would anyone in their right mind. This season is proving that things can change though; the once 3-13-1 Lions are now 6-2, heading into their bye week two seasons later.
Now this begs the question: What changed? We have the same quarterback, head coach and the same angry fans, so what happened? The way I see it, all it took was a culture change. The Lions’ Head Coach Dan Campbell arrived in 2021 with many Detroiters upset with the decision – until Campbell started going after kneecaps.
Campbell has a combined record of 18-23-1 as head coach of the Lions. This may not look good on paper, but Detroit finished last year with a winning record of 9-8 and are 6-2 so far this year. Clearly something shifted in the Lions locker room – and the whole state is here for it.
With the Lions in sole possession of the National Football Conference (NFC) North Division heading into their bye week, what’s worked so far for them, and what hasn’t? Quite frankly, the Lions rookie class for the 2023 season has been exceptional so far, with standouts being tight end Sam LaPorta, safety Brian Branch and up and comer running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
The Lions would not be where they are right now without their veterans though. Jared Goff has been a mastermind out on the field, almost always throwing with both poise and purpose. This allows players like the aforementioned LaPorta and other pass catchers like Amon-Ra St. Brown to find success on the field.
Defensively, this Lions team still leaves a little to be desired. Especially week seven, where Detroit fans were put through an onslaught of Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. In my opinion, the Lions just got a little complacent with their 5-1 start and maybe took the Ravens a little less seriously than they should have. They also took care of business against a struggling Las Vegas Raiders team the following week, so it seems like they’re back on track.
I will also note though that the Lions are missing quite a few key players on defense, including defensive lineman James Houston, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley. Captain linebacker Alex Anzalone has really had to step up this year, netting himself three sacks and four passes defended.
With the Lions sitting comfortably at 6-2, what’s next for this team? Well, with only one division game against the Packers out of the way, the bulk of the Lions’ remaining schedule is against the Bears, Packers and Vikings. The NFC North games should all go pretty well, but I won’t underestimate any of those teams – or overestimate the Lions’ abilities (I’m only 19 and I’ve already seen enough to understand why many other fans find a new team).
The one game I’m really worried about is against the Dallas Cowboys. They’re solid this year, and since we played very poorly on the road against Baltimore, I can see Dallas as a tough game for the Lions.
With the rest of the regular season out of the way, let’s look at what would happen in the playoffs – just for fun. The Lions are currently on top of the NFC North, meaning they would be in the playoffs – no matter what – if the season ended today. That being said, the regular season is far from over and there are no guarantees; there is no reason for me to believe the Lions are NFC North champs just yet.
But let’s keep playing this what-if game. If they win the North, the Lions would host a playoff game for the first time since 1994. The Lions are currently the second seed in the NFC, meaning they would play the seventh seed Minnesota Vikings, a division rival. Even without their normal starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins, Josh Dobbs really stepped up for the Vikings so they are still very much a threat to the Lions both in winning the division and a possible playoff game.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Detroit Lions’ performance so far this season. While their performance in Baltimore leaves me worried for other big games down the line, it seems they have learned their lesson and won’t get complacent again. It seems there has finally been a shift in the Lions’ culture, and there’s a whole lot of hungry fans ready for some success.