DETROIT – It’s been a chaotic first couple of weeks for the NFL.
Both the No. 1 seed and the Super Bowl representative from the AFC last year are off to 0-2 starts. The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Seattle Seahawks all have wins. There’s even been a tie.
But no development is more surprising than the success of the Detroit Lions offense.
Sure, the Lions were expected to improve drastically from their 3-13-1 campaign a year ago. And the excitement surrounding this season grew exponentially after their appearance on Hard Knocks.
But with mostly the same cast of characters returning on offense and three injuries to starting linemen, nobody would have predicted the Lions to be one of the most explosive teams in the league after two weeks.
As it stands, the Lions lead the NFL in offensive points scored, with 71, through the first two games.
The Buffalo Bills have scored 72 total points, but one of their touchdowns came on a Kirk Cousins pick-six. The Kansas City Chiefs are tied with the Lions at 71 points, but they also benefitted from a pick-six.
Detroit ranks fourth in the NFL with 405.5 total yards per game and is the only NFC team other than the Philadelphia Eagles (470.5 per game) to average more than 400 yards through Week 2.
The success has been paced by the running game, which ranks third in the NFL with 372 total yards. Jared Goff and the passing attack have been more middle of the pack, ranking 19th in the league.
Detroit’s offense is paced by two young superstars in Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift.
St. Brown, who exploded in the second half last season and came into 2022 with lofty expectations, is already exceeding them. He ranks 10th in the NFL with 180 receiving yards, fourth with 17 catches, and second with three touchdowns.
He’s also rushed for 68 yards on two carries.
St. Brown has become the go-to target for Goff in any situation. He has more than twice as many catches as the rest of the wide receivers on the roster combined (four for D.J. Chark and four for Josh Reynolds).
Meanwhile, Swift has developed into one of the most dangerous running backs in football. The Lions insist on limiting his carries, but still he’s managed to gain 200 rushing yards and 62 receiving yards through two games.
Swift has found the end zone once on the ground and once through the air, including Sunday’s incredible touchdown that began with him diving onto the ground to make a catch 20 yards away from the goal line.
The 23-year-old currently averages 10 yards per rush and 12.4 yards per catch. He’s a special talent, and the Lions would do well to make sure he gets more carries going forward.
Are (first-place) Lions actually good?
After the Minnesota Vikings took a beating Monday night in Philadelphia, the Lions found themselves in a four-way tie for first place in the NFC North Division.
Since the Lions almost beat the Eagles, who crushed the Vikings, who beat the Packers, who beat the Bears, that means the Lions are the best team in the North, right?
I don’t think anybody is ready to take that leap (OK, maybe a few of you are). Even though the Lions lead the division with a +6 point differential, they’re going to have to do a lot more to prove they’re capable of staying competitive.
The first two weeks of action have been chaotic all across the league, and as mentioned above, the Lions aren’t the only team to pull off a surprising win.
I still have a lot of questions about the defense, which put together an excellent first half against the Washington Commanders, but allowed four second-half touchdown drives. Overall, the defense has allowed eight touchdowns in two games.
Goff is another reason the Lions face an uphill battle in the division. He’s looked fine so far, but the inconsistencies that led to him falling out of favor in Los Angeles still flare up from time to time. The backbreaking pick-six against the Eagles is one example.
The Lions sure look like they’re better than last season, and the schedule sets up for them to pick up a few extra wins. With St. Brown and Swift running wild and Aidan Hutchinson chasing quarterbacks all around the field, this team is definitely more fun than a year ago.
But they’ve got a long way to go before we can consider them a contender.