The Detroit Lions aren't ready to meet the hype
According to Las Vegas, the Detroit Lions are the favorites to win the NFC North. In related news, the Washington Generals are favored to defeat the Harlem Globetrotters and the Roadrunner is an underdog to Wile E. Coyote. Does that sound any less ridiculous?
The Lions were one of the NFL's feel-good stories of last season. Propelled by Amon-Ra St. Brown's revenge list and the image of Dan Campbell biting opponents' kneecaps off, Detroit made a legitimate run to challenge for a playoff spot, ultimately falling just short despite winning at Lambeau Field to end the season.
NFL history warns against extrapolating a late-season run into next season's predictions. The Lions finished strong in 2022, but what reason is there to think they can take the next step this year? The offense maxed out its potential under Jared Goff, finishing fifth in the NFL in points per game. Still, three of Detroit's first five draft picks play on the offensive side of the ball, a move that had many draft analysts shaking their heads.
The Lions did try to address their defensive ineptitude in free agency, turning to the Keystone State to improve their lackluster secondary. C.J. Gardner-Johnson brings his playmaking ability from Philadelphia (he had six interceptions last year), while Cameron Sutton is a quality cornerback that comes to Motown from Pittsburgh.
The problem is that the Lions, and especially these Lions, have never been the favorites. Detroit embraced the role of the plucky underdog last year, but they haven't won more than nine games since 2014. Though they won five of six to end the season, the one time they controlled their own playoff destiny, they fell on their face against a sub-mediocre Carolina Panthers team. Are they going to be confident after being the sacrificial lamb to the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Week 1?
Detroit is going to find out that life is different when you're the hunted and not the hunter. Until they can prove the crown fits as the new kings of the NFC North, I'll be skeptical. Vegas may have the Lions as the division favorites, but as the old saying goes, Vegas wasn't built on winners. Bet on the Lions at your own peril.