DETROIT - Ahh, football has returned. And with the return of football comes a familiar feeling for Lions fans -- hope. Zero wins, but also, zero losses! Anything is possible. The Detroit Lions enter the season with some new pieces, but more importantly, a new coaching era. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, without further ado, here are five stellar reasons the Lions will indeed make the playoffs this year.
1) Matthew Stafford and Joe Lombardi
- We all know QB Matthew Stafford needed some work after last season. In 2013, Stafford threw 19 interceptions, 6th most in the NFL. His completion percentage (58.5%) ranked in the bottom ten. In his defense, he did throw the 4th most passes last year, with 634 attempts. New Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, former quarterbacks coach for the New Orleans Saints, is on a mission to fix him. During his tenure in New Orleans, Lombardi coached Drew Brees to three seasons of over 5,000 yards in passing, including the single season record in 2011. Even Calvin Johnson is noticing a difference.
"It's great to see how coach allows him, sometimes to put him in a position to make calls, to call a play, to put us in the best position he feels he could put us in and that's pretty awesome to see,'' Johnson said. "That's some stuff you see like Peyton Manning do all the time. He'll be at the line and check out of something to a totally different play that wasn't on the play call that coach may have called in. so that's pretty cool to see, it gives the whole team confidence.''
2) Golden Tate
- Golden Tate is NOT Nate Burleson, and I mean that in a good way. The former Seahawks WR will mesh with this offense much better than Nate ever hoped to. Last year, Tate found the end zone 5 times in a run heavy offense. The biggest stat to me is Tate's drop rate. He ranks in the top 11 for lowest drop rate amongst receivers, with only 3 drops last year. Nate Burleson ranked in the top 10 WORST drop rates in the league from 2010-2012, before struggling with injuries.
3) Joique Bell
- The pride of Wayne State University, Joique Bell exploded onto the Lions scene last year, filling in nicely for a fumble prone and injury prone Reggie Bush. Bell racked up 650 yards on the ground, and over 500 yards through the air in 2013. This year, Bell will see a bigger role in the offense, and with a fullback scheme being implemented, and a double tight end set, Joique will have even more room to power through. Look for him to have a 1,000 yard year.
4) The Defensive Line
- With Suh entering the final year of his ridiculous contract, and no extension in sight, Suh will be playing for his next contract. Whether that is here or not is the question. In addition to a motivated Suh, look for C.J. Mosley, George Johnson, and a healthy Jason Jones to surprise some folks this year. They are a scrappy bunch.
5) Home Field Advantage
- In 2011, when the Lions made the playoffs, they had a winning record at home (5-3). That year, Ford Field turned into a place opponents did NOT want to be. If the Lions start off strong this year, look for the Lions faithful to become the 12th man.
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