Why the Lions will go from worst to first in NFC North
The NFL is about quick turnover and parity. It seems like every season there is one team that goes from worst to first, rising from the bottom of their division to the top. The Lions can be that team in 2022.
Recent Teams that have Done it Before:
2017 Jacksonville Jaguars 10-6 (3-13 in 2016)*
2018 Houston Texans: 11-5 (4-12 in 2017)
2018 Chicago Bears: 12-4 (5-11 in 2017)
2019 San Francisco 49ers: 13-3 (4-12 in 2018)**
2021 Cincinnati Bengals: 10-7 (4-11-1 in 2020)**
*Lost AFC Championship game
**Lost in Super Bowl
Not only do some of these teams go from worst to first, but they also end up making some noise in the playoffs. If these teams can turn it around in just one year, why can’t the Lions?
There are countless reasons why the Lions have not made the leap. Most notably, they have long had incompetent coaching and drafting as well as an overall lack of roster talent. The Lions have been in the conversation before about going worst to first, yet they have never delivered.
NFC North Snapshot Analysis:
To answer whether the Lions can go from worst to first, the rest of the division needs to be dissected. The NFC North lost some of its best players in WR Davante Adams and LB Khalil Mack.
In terms of position groups, the Packers and Bears are lacking at the wide receiver position. The Vikings strengthened their secondary by drafting S Lewis Cine and CB Andrew Booth Jr.. Overall, there has been a good amount of turnover in the division.
The Lions made a lot of low-risk, high-reward moves in the offseason. WR D.J. Chark, CB Mike Hughes, and S DeShon Elliott were not the biggest names in free agency, but they can contribute right away.
The Lions also arguably had the best draft class compared to their division rivals, notably selecting DE Aidan Hutchinson second overall and WR Jameson Williams 12th overall.
The only other rival to have two first-round selections were the Packers, who drafted LB Quay Walker 22nd overall and DT Devonte Wyatt 28th overall.
Two new coach-general manager duos have also joined the division. The Vikings hired GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and HC Kevin O’Connell. The Bears appointed new GM Ryan Poles and HC Matt Eberflus. These duos come with a lot of inexperience at their positions, which could hinder their teams in year one.
Detroit Lions 2022 Schedule
As previously mentioned, the Lions have a favorable schedule this season. No win is guaranteed in the NFL, but the Lions play several evenly-matched teams such as: The Jets, Giants, Jaguars, Seahawks, and Commanders. If the Lions are going to make a run at the NFC crown, this schedule will be a reason why.
The Lions had a much tougher schedule in 2021, but were very competitive in most of those games. They proved to the league that they are not pushovers. Their grit and aggressiveness will translate to this season and will hopefully pay dividends.
Detroit Lions Coaching Staff
This is probably the first time in a while where the Lions have a competent and highly-regarded coaching staff. In addition to HC Dan Campbell, there are several leaders on the staff including Assistant HC Duce Staley and DC Aaron Glenn. OC Ben Johnson is another name to know going into 2022. Johnson is an up-and-coming coach who can take the offense to heights unseen.
When Campbell was assembling his staff last season, there was a sense that this staff would be different. There are a lot of coaches that were brought in that were also former players, such as WR Coach Antwaan Randle El and QB Coach Mark Brunell, who has high expectations for Jared Goff this season.
This coaching staff is ideal for a team about to take a leap from the division cellar, and it seems like the players have openly bought into the coaches and their culture.
The Lions are poised to surprise a lot of people in 2022, and winning the division is in the realm of possibility. Only time will tell, but the tides seem to be turning organizationally. The best is yet to come.