I could think of many other teams I'd rather start the 2010 season with, but it does help that the Lions will be traveling to Chicago for the season opener. Why there is so much smack talk about the Lions, I do not know. I do know they have a much, much better team than they did last year, and could play spoilers to the Bears home opener this weekend.
Sean Yuille, El Hefe from SBN's Pride of Detroit, was kind enough to take the time to give us some insight into his favorite team for the upcoming Lions/Bears matchup. Either that, or he was just scared of what we'd do if he didn't participate. Either way, thanks a bunch Sean!
1- In Pride of Detroit's version of this post, you mentioned the confidence level among the fanbase as being high. For so many years, the Lions were not competitive at all, and never really expected to succeed. Suddenly, there seems to be a new direction, and a new found confidence. To what would you attribute that shift in mentality, and what in direction do you really see the team going?
POD: The shift in mentality comes from the fact that there is a new front office in place headed by Martin Mayhew and obviously a new head coach in Jim Schwartz. While 2009 did not produce results that reflect a huge shift in the right direction, fans have kept track of the many moves the Lions have been making with the sole purpose of adding talent and getting better. That is not something we got to see very much during the Matt Millen years, so led by Mayhew and Schwartz, it seems the Lions are finally headed for good things in the future, and I believe the light at the end of the tunnel may finally be appearing for Lions fans.
2- You guys have quickly added a lot of talent to both sides of the ball. Who are a few players that might be under the radar, but could still significantly make a big impact for your team?
POD: The player that sticks out to me the most on offense is offensive guard Rob Sims. The Lions got him from Seattle for a fifth-round pick, and he is set to fill the starting spot at left guard. It has just been a revolving door of players at that position for years and years, downgrading the offensive line as a whole. With him on the team, the Lions now have a solid set of starters on the O-line.
On defense, Corey Williams is probably as under the radar as it gets. He's sandwiched in between Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch, two of the high-profile additions this offseason, but when he was acquired from Cleveland via a trade, it was obvious he would upgrade the defensive line as well. He won't get the same amount of headlines as Suh or KVB, but he should be a solid player for the D-line.
3- What position, or positional group(s), would you say is the biggest strength of your team? What about the biggest area(s) of concern?
POD: The defensive line appears to be the strongest unit on the team for sure. I've already mentioned Williams, and Suh and Vanden Bosch are going to bring a lot of talent to the D-line as well. Add in Cliff Avril, who appears ready for a breakout season, and the Lions' defensive line has quite a bit of talent.
The unit that concerns me the most is still the secondary. While the Lions made some moves to improve the position, such as signing Jonathan Wade and trading for Chris Houston, as a whole the unit still scares me. The secondary has been bad for years and years, always seemingly ranked towards the bottom of the NFL. I think having an improved D-line will actually benefit the secondary quite a bit, but it seems like it could be a big liability for the Lions.
4- This one is a multi-part: How do you see the NFC North shaking down this season? Which North team do you dislike the most ("Brett Favre" is most definitely an acceptable answer)? Would you be happy to see Minnesota get transplanted to California, and for them to replaced by the Rams in the North?
POD: I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the Packers to take home the divisional championship. Okay, so that's not going out on a limb at all considering every other analyst has them winning the Super Bowl, but I think Green Bay will edge Minnesota for the divisional crown, leaving Chicago and Detroit to battle for third place.
My least favorite NFC North team is probably the Bears just because of the Chicago-Detroit rivalry that goes beyond football. I do hate Brett Favre quite a bit for obvious reasons, but on a team level it's the Bears for me.
As for if I'd like to see Minnesota get shipped out west, I can't say it'd upset me one bit. On the one hand, I would feel a bit sorry for Minnesota fans considering how crappy that would be (some have talked about moving the Pistons, and the thought of it just sucks), but then again, I'd rather see the Rams twice a year than the Vikings in the short-term future.
5- What is the key match-up(s) from the Lions standpoint for this first game against the Bears?
POD: It's definitely going to be containing the Bears' offense, specifically the passing game. I don't think there's any doubt Jay Cutler has the potential to put up some big numbers against the Lions' secondary, so if Detroit can limit the damage he does, then they will have a good chance of winning the game.
Bonus question: Bears fans are very much as respectful about Barry Sanders being one of the greatest ever. In your own words, tell us how even you recognize that Walter Payton is and always will be the greatest RB/NFL player ever in the history of everything.
POD: There's no doubt Walter Payton was a great running back, but this is Barry Sanders we're talking about. I gotta go with No. 20 on this one:
Sean, thanks again for your time brother. I hope we kick your ass this weekend.