Detroit Lions as the 2017 NFC Champions? Seem impossible? It may not be as far-fetched as you think. If the Lions can tune up a couple of areas they are lacking in, they could be one of the final four NFC divisional teams.
With teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, and Atlanta Falcons all favored well ahead of the Detroit Lions, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, not only to win the NFC Conference but the Super Bowl as well, how can the Lions rise up and shock the football world?
The Lions are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, especially on offense, yet they can never seem to just put it all together and have one of those years to remember. Could 2017 finally be the year Detroit plays for an NFC Championship?
Yes, they can. Detroit could be this season’s version of the 2016 Atlanta Falcons or the 2015 Carolina Panthers, both of whom were not on anyone’s radar to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. If Detroit is to be that team, here is how it has to be done.
No Stumbling Out Of The Gate
While the first four games of the season don’t determine which teams make the playoffs, history does indicate that a slow start does kill any team’s chances from making the postseason.
In 2014, Detroit started the season 3-1. They made the playoffs and lost a heartbreaking game to Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys 24-20 on January 4, 2015. They started the 2015 season 0-5 and missed the playoffs. In 2016, Detroit started 1-3, made the Wild Card round, but they were trounced by the Seattle Seahawks 26-6. Just making the playoffs isn’t the goal in Detroit anymore.
A good start can lead to a great season in Motown, and as history has shown, a bad start can be lights out before Week 10.
Matt Stafford’s Breakout Season
Matt Stafford is a top 10 quarterback in the NFL, according to many experts, yet he hasn’t led the Lions to a single playoff win in his eight-year career. Stafford can’t carry all of the blame for the sometimes sluggish Lions offense. A lack of running game over the past few seasons has made Detroit become one-dimensional.
Excuses aside, it is time for Stafford to prove that he belongs when it comes to mentioning the best in the game today. It’s time to shed that “very good” label to elite status for Stafford.
Run the Ball with Success Behind a Solid Offensive Line
The Detroit Lions haven’t had a real running back since Barry Sanders — real meaning someone who actually strikes fear in a defense. Hopefully, that will change this season as GM Bob Quinn seems to be focused on building up the offensive line.
Mlive indicates that the Lions are committed to solidify the O-line this season. GM Bob Quinn has been clear since day one that a strong line will result in wins. If he is correct, the Lions should be on the upswing for the next few seasons.
Detroit added two proven linemen, former Baltimore Ravens right tackle Rick Wagner and longtime Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang, during the offseason. Adding them to play alongside Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow should dramatically help the Lions running game in 2017, no matter who is the starting running back.
Decker already has a great feeling about the upcoming season.
“It’s really cool to see this organization putting an emphasis on the offensive line,” Decker said. “They drafted three of us (last year) with me, Graham and Joe. And they’re bringing obviously well-documented very good players (this year). So that’s cool to see.”
Parity, Parity, Parity! History Could be on Their Side
The NFC is very consistent and inconsistent. Make sense? Outside of the Seattle Seahawks winning back-to-back NFC titles in 2013 and 2014, the NFC has not seen the same team head to the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons since the Green Bay Packers pulled off the feat back in 1996 and 1997.
That is a 16-year span of seeing a different team capture consecutive NFC titles, proving that unlike the AFC, which has been dominated by the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Denver Broncos for nearly the last two decades, the NFC hasn’t had a dominating team in some time.
Fifteen different teams have won the NFC championship over the last 17 seasons, so why not Detroit in 2017?
The Lions are currently listed at 35/1 to win the NFC Conference title in 2017. That puts Detroit just above the bottom feeders of San Francisco, Chicago Bears, and the LA Rams. Obviously, Las Vegas odds makers do not have much faith in the Detroit Lions, however, don’t let that discourage you if you are a fan of the Leo’s.
Last season, Las Vegas oddsmakers had the Atlanta Falcons listed at 40/1 to win the NFC Conference and 80/1 to win Super Bowl 51 when the 2016 season began. The Falcons won the NFC title and almost pulled off the big win against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51. Sure, they lost in overtime, but when the season began, Atlanta wasn’t even thought of as a real contender for the NFL title.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones had record seasons in 2016, and the Falcons had a banner year. Now, Detroit Lions fans hope they can change those names to Matt Stafford and Golden Tate having stellar career years in 2017!
Here is a current look at the odds to win the NFC Championship this upcoming season courtesy of Vegas Insider.
2017 NFC Championship Odds
Dallas Cowboys 5/1
Atlanta Falcons 6/1
Seattle Seahawks 6/1
Green Bay Packers 13/2
New York Giants 10/1
Carolina Panthers 12/1
Minnesota Vikings 12/1
Arizona Cardinals 15/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20/1
Philadelphia Eagles 20/1
Washington Redskins 25/1
Detroit Lions 35/1
New Orleans Saints 35/1
Chicago Bears 60/1
Los Angeles Rams 75/1
San Francisco 49ers 150/1
[Featured Image by Leon Halip/Getty Images]