The Detroit Lions have become the favorable pick among the NFL experts when it comes to success in the upcoming 2011 NFL season. Not only are some of them picking the Lions to finish with a .500 record or better, there are some who feel the Lions can sneak away with the NFC North title.
Why are the Lions receiving all of this love? Here are four reasons why the Detroit Lions will have success in 2011.
Matt Stafford Is Ready to Shine
Yes, there is some concern about Stafford’s ability to stay healthy consider he only played in 13 games during his first two seasons.
But did you see his performance during preseason? He completed 75% of his passes for 395 yards with 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Even though this is preseason, his numbers should give the Lion faithful hope.
Stafford is ready to take his game to the next level.
Viable Receiving Targets Outside of Calvin Johnson
Despite what Cris Carter says, Calvin Johnson is one of the top five wide receivers in the NFL. As a result, opposing defenses are going to game plan to try and minimize his ability to hurt them. This means either rolling coverage his way to take away any passing options for Johnson.
In the past, this hurt the Lions because they did not have any other quality wide receivers to make the defenses pay for the single coverage. That was until they have wide receiver, Nate Burleson and tight ends, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.
Burleson has shown he still has the hands and speed to provide a nice compliment opposite to Johnson. Scheffler still has solid hands to catch anything that is thrown his way and Pettigrew is going to develop into a redzone threat for the Lions.
The Defensive Front Four
This unit, led by Ndamukong Suh, terrorized opposing quarterbacks in 2010 when they racked up 44 sacks, which was fourth best in the NFL. The team was not afraid to add to their strength when they selected defensive tackle, Nick Fairley, in the first round of the NFL draft.
You can expect to see this unit to grow in 2011. Defensive end, Cliff Avril is going to continue to benefit from the interior pressures and should break double digit sacks. The unit is only going to get better when Fairley is ready to take the field.
Quality at Linebacker
Last year, this was one of the weak spots for the Lions. Fast forward to 2011, it has become a solid unit thanks to the team picking up experienced players Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch. When you add them with the young budding star, DeAndre Levy, you have a unit that produced 208 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 1 sack last year.
Keep an eye on rookie Doug Hogue who the Lions plucked during the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft. Though he only played the position for two years in college, he has the speed to be a threat from the corner.