The Detroit Lions, after a thrilling turnaround in the 2022 season, have become the sweethearts of NFL chatter. While some might wish to dub them “America’s Team,” that moniker seems reserved for the Dallas Cowboys, regardless of their underperformance over the past three decades.
The Lions’ newfound popularity has sparked a debate: Is this hype deserved, or are they being unjustifiably overrated?
While the Lions roar might be music to some, there are others who are raising skeptical eyebrows at the volume of the hype. Mike Jones of The Athletic is one of those challenging the prevailing sentiment. He labeled the Lions as “overhyped” alongside the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and the Los Angeles Chargers.
An Unlikely Rise
The Lions began the 2022 season unimpressively, with a dismal 1-6 record. But they rallied, winning eight out of their final ten games to finish at 9-8. Despite being narrowly excluded from the playoffs, partly due to controversial referee decisions during a pivotal game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, the Lions left a strong impression. A triumphant week 17 victory against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field further solidified their standing as a team to watch in 2023.
An Aggressive Offseason
The Lions’ front office, emboldened by their turnaround, moved aggressively in the offseason to address the team’s weakest area – the secondary. CJ Gardner-Johnson, one of the top secondary players available, was wooed into joining the Lions on a one-year deal. Additional acquisitions included Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, bolstering the team’s defensive prowess.
On the offensive end, wide receiver Marvin Jones, running back David Montgomery, and offensive guard Graham Glasgow were recruited. Jones and Montgomery are set to be immediate starters, while Glasgow offers valuable versatility as a backup.
Re-signings and Drafts
The Lions retained reliable role players like John Cominsky, Isaiah Buggs, and Craig Reynolds, while making notable additions in the draft. The selection of running back Jahmyr Gibbs and linebacker Jack Campbell in the first round added significant firepower to the team’s arsenal. Tight end Sam LaPora, wide receiver Antoine Green, safety Brian Branch, and defensive tackle Brodric Martin further padded the Lions’ depth and potential.
A Different Take
While it seems the Lions have enhanced their squad significantly during the offseason, there’s a counter-argument to consider. A completely revamped secondary raises chemistry concerns, even if the incoming players are expected to acclimate quickly. Moreover, the Lions are not used to being the “hunted” – an unfamiliar role that could impact their performance.
Mike Jones of The Athletic provides some valuable insights, saying:
There’s quite a bit of buzz surrounding the Lions, who last season rebounded from 1-6 to flirt with a playoff berth before falling just short at 9-8. Now, after another busy free agency and draft (including two first-round selections), the Lions are a popular pick to contend this season. The exposure from “Hard Knocks” probably helps, as does coach Dan Campbell’s colorful personality. And the lovable loser to contender transformation is always popular.
While some rival scouts believe the Lions are legit, others classify them as another overhyped team, and you can see why. It’s true that the NFC North is wide open, and that 9-8 finish does represent improvement after four straight double-digit loss seasons. However, the Lions still have more growing to do before they can truly contend. A good bit of change at the skill position groups, and in the secondary, translates into a reset in key areas. As we’ve seen with many teams, strong chemistry isn’t developed overnight. And last year’s success translates into a tougher schedule: After entering 2022 with the fifth-easiest schedule, the Lions in 2023 will play what projects to be the 13th-easiest schedule.
No one can deny the strides the Lions have made. Still, it’s a long road from a resurgent season to a Super Bowl contender. The changes, though promising, bring along uncertainties, and the NFL is not a league that forgives mistakes easily.
So, are the Detroit Lions overhyped, or is their burgeoning reputation well-earned? Only time, and the 2023 season, will tell.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Detroit Free Press