There's no better way to learn about our weekly opponent than getting info straight from a blogger that covers his team 365 days a year, and this week, we have the always-insightful Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit. Big thanks to Sean for dropping some knowledge for our WCG folks this weekend!
1- Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: What's the deal with Jim Schwartz? He seems to always be angry and pitching a fit, and that culture has sometimes trickled down to the players. Is he a good coach? Is he the long-term answer in Detroit?
Sean: Schwartz's antics on the sideline are endearing to fans when the Lions are consistently winning (see 2011) and annoying when things aren't going well (see 2012). Generally speaking, I think a lot of fans have grown tired of the way he carries himself at times, mainly because the Lions have had issues with taking dumb penalties. I do think he is a good coach, but is he truly one of the top head coaches in the NFL? I don't really think so. That said, he could very well become the long-term answer if the Lions make a run at the playoffs again this season. He's already in his fifth year as head coach, and turning around the Lions again would pretty much assure he'd be back for a sixth season in 2014. By the Lions' standards, that's pretty long term.
2- So far in 2013, what has been the biggest surprise for the Lions? What has been the biggest disappointment?
Sean: The biggest surprise for me has been the play of the offensive line. With new starters at three spots -- a left tackle in his second year, a right guard in his rookie year and two different guys at right tackle already because of an injury -- expectations weren't very high coming into the season. However, the new offensive line has performed quite well in the run game, and Matthew Stafford has been protected quite well so far.
My biggest disappointment is Darius Slay. The rookie cornerback came in and won a starting job in training camp, but he has already been benched twice so far this season. Last week, he didn't even get a single defensive snap, as the Lions decided to go with Rashean Mathis, a veteran who only joined the team last month. Hopefully Slay will get it together and see his playing time return in the coming weeks.
3- Who are some rookies and sophomores that could really make an impact this season?
Sean: For the sophomores, Riley Reiff is the starting left tackle, Ryan Broyles' role is becoming bigger and bigger at wide receiver and Bill Bentley has been the Lions' nickelback. Among the rookies, the Lions have gotten a lot of contributions already: Larry Warford is the starting right guard, Darius Slay has started a couple games at cornerback, Ziggy Ansah is a starter at defensive end, punter Sam Martin has done a great job (also as the kickoff specialist) and undrafted tight end Joseph Fauria already has a couple touchdowns. Running back Theo Riddick and defensive end Devin Taylor have also gotten playing time as rookies. Finally, it seems the Lions have put together a really deep rookie class.
4- Just like in Chicago, the Detroit Lions offensive line has been revamped, and Matt Stafford has only been sacked twice all season. The offense is scoring points, the defense is being disruptive (Ndamukong Suh is absolutely beastly this season), and the Lions could have a share of the NFC North lead with a win over Chicago... How are the fans feeling about 2013? Seems like plenty of reasons to have some high expectations.
Sean: Expectations are relatively high, but there's a sense of uneasiness after what happened in 2012. Nobody was really surprised that the Lions took a step back last season, but all the way back to 4-12? That was pretty shocking considering how much talent the Lions had, and they have even more talent this year. There is definitely a lot of hope backing this year's group, as we saw back in 2011 when the Lions ended their playoff drought, but I think we're all just waiting for something bad to happen given this franchise's history. This team just isn't to the point where fans can put their faith completely behind the coaches and players and know that everything will go smoothly.
5- How do you predict the NFC North ending up this season, and what will be the NFC playoff teams? Who will be the NFC Super Bowl representative?
Sean: Before the season, I had the Packers winning the NFC North at 11-5, and I had the Lions coming in second at 8-8 and the Bears and Vikings tying for third at 7-9. Despite their tough start to the season, I still think Green Bay will win the division, and I do still believe the Lions will finish second. However, if the Bears are going to tie with a team, it's probably the Lions rather than the Vikings, which look much worse than 7-9.
As for the playoffs, I see Seattle finishing with the top seed, New Orleans winning the NFC South and Dallas winning the NFC East. For the wild card spots, give me Atlanta and San Francisco turning things around after a slow start and keeping the Lions and Bears out of the postseason. I predicted the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl over the Broncos before the season, and that is still my prediction as we head into Week 4.
Big thanks to Sean for taking the time to chat with us. Make sure to check out the POD version of this posts HERE.
More from Windy City Gridiron:
- The Weekend Bears Den: September 28, 2013 - Week 4 news and notes
- Chicago Bears Fantasy Football: Start 'Em and Sit 'Em versus the Lions
- Pleased to Meet You: Week 4, Detroit Lions
- Bears place Henry Melton on IR, expect to sign DT Landon Cohen as replacement
- Chicago Bears Playbook - The Trestman Philosophy by the Numbers