We’re winding down the year, starting the final quarter of the season with the Lions. As you’ll recall, the Brian Hoyer-led Bears defeated the Lions back in week 4 for the first win of the season. A lot has changed since then so we circled back to Chris Lemieux of Pride of Detroit and the first place Lions to discuss this crazy mixed up world.
WCG: 1. What a difference a couple months makes! Back in October, the Bears managed to take down the Lions at Soldier field to snap some embarrassing losing streaks behind the PG-13 offense of Brian Hoyer (he gets close but never scores). Now, the Lions are in 1st place in the North and are even threatening to take the #2 seed for a bye. What the heck happened?
POD: What's happened was a stretch of seven of the dumbest games I've ever seen. Dumb is a word that should be detached from any axis of good or bad; they were simply bewildering to watch and defied expectations and logical outcomes. It's been a hell of a ride, to say the least.
A lot of it had to come from the timely play of Matthew Stafford, aided by a receiver corps that found itself after the Bears game. Some came from necessary plays from the defense, and surely enough over the course of the season they've begun to patch themselves up and work more cohesively, holding many teams to 20 points or fewer. Now it's become a matter of learning how to play well with few mistakes, something gleaned from close games like they've gone through.
Of course getting here needs help along the way - like, say, Sam Bradford deciding to throw towards Darius Slay in the Thanksgiving game - but the Lions have largely been making their own.
WCG: 2. The MVP conversation is starting to congeal around a few main candidates. Tom Brady is an obvious choice with young gunslinger Derek Carr of the upstart Raiders serving as the trendy pick. But there's been a growing buzz around Matthew Stafford and what he's done sans running game and Calvin Johnson for the top award. What would an MVP award mean for Stafford and for the Lions organization?
POD: I don't know what the award would mean to be honest. I think most fans would, with the prizes in sight, take a playoff berth or a division crown, but those are easy cop-out answers. I don't know if Stafford is going to take MVP if primarily for the factor that not that many people watch Lions games. Sports journalists are, as a profession, unbelievably lazy and myopic. Even with the comebacks, it's going to be hard to justify it against someone like Tom Brady or Matt Ryan, but the Lions will have a real opportunity with Sunday Night Football coming up. Of course, that means attempting beat an ugodly Cowboys team on the road, and it's the only primetime appointment the Lions have on their side.
Of his play, it's been fairly remarkable, and an award would be a nice little bonus to the season the Lions have been having. It'd also probably mean a little extra money for Matt. He's getting broke off no matter what, but the price point is going to be really curious to see. Picking up the MVP award might added a few million to the load.
But I'd rather ban the MVP award from going to quarterbacks entirely. I am ready to start a military junta to achieve this goal.
(Editorial Note: We at WCG do not endorse violence...unless it’s Pernell McPhee and his fellow linebackers...then we’re all for it...but you guys should stay at home)
WCG: 3. Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has been a revelation for this Lions team since taking over the job mid-2015. Teryl Austin had four interviews for head coaching jobs last year and will likely be a popular interview again this offseason. How worried are you that the coordinators are going to be plucked away just as the Lions are starting to string together an impressive season?
POD: Teryl Austin's defense has turned around and just the right time for him to draw attention again. However, I'm not sold on him as a hot coaching candidate. There's still too many questions I've got about how his defense came to prominence the way it did with defensive stars like Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy and how much it has remained a janky mess without the presence of either. What's more, coordinators don't mean their skills are utilized while they're head coaches, but this is more a philosophical question about going after coordinators to become head coaches and expect their specialties to continue to translate.
I'm honestly not worried about either Austin or Jim Bob Cooter, but for different reasons. I'm not sure that Austin is irreplaceable at this point in the Lions defense; his departure would require a bit of reshuffling in the offseason, but the defense is already in flux and as I've established, I don't think Austin is that remarkable. Jim Bob Cooter is a little different. The Lions have already stated they're ready to commit considerable resources and booty to make sure he stays in town as a coordinator; I also believe that, barring a complete collapse, Jim Caldwell remains, which deepens the expectation for Jim Bob to remain in town. Also in Cooter's case, there's his status as a greenhorn that would make any head coaching talk extremely premature.
WCG: 4. As the Lions prepare for a potential playoff run, is there a Chicago Bears player would you pluck from the dumpster fire to don the Honolulu Blue and Silver?
There's a Pride Of Detroit joke that I'm supposed to take Jeremy Langford. But if I'm being serious, I guess Pernell McPhee. Linebacker help would go a good distance to shoring up a defense that has, until recently, been a goddamn sieve for tight ends seeking stat padding and unhindered success in moving downfield. Pass rush is also struggling, even with blitzes. McPhee would certainly help the
(Editorial note: I think Bears fans are prepared to give you Langford for a player to be named later.)
WCG: 5. As a Lions fan, how do you and your den mates rank the rivalries within the division? Is there a team that you want to beat more than the others or are they all equally vile?
POD: We just like to beat y'all. We do. I get it, y'all go chasing after the demons of Green Bay or whatever, and maybe a few of our fans do; the Vikings we generally as a fanbase find unremarkable in attempting to form any type of hatred. They're just...I dunno, I think you guys have a thing with them but we struggle to really form a deeper rivalry compared to the other divisional teams.
But Chicago? Man, listen. Chicago and Detroit have always had this thing going between us and I want it at the forefront. It extends across sports and it's supposed to be our thing. There's a proximity involved that I can't ignore. I would grow up hearing about the Jordan Bulls and the Bad Boy Pistons, and I would see the Wings and Blackhawks, and the Tigers and Sox (that one always felt a little more contrived but whatever). I know it took plenty of years before the Lions were moderately good again, but I enjoy watching the Lions and Bears play and beat up on one another.
WCG: Bonus: I'm not going to ask for a prediction of the game but rather - where does this Lions team finish up and how far can they go in the playoffs if they make it there?
POD: You're wise in that I hate the prediction game, but sure, I'm in a mood about talking about the remaining record. The schedule is manageable where .500 the rest of the way is doable, with perhaps 3-1 in play. I don't think that's much of a problem, although things have collapsed before in the past and I remain wary and clutching lucky charms until New Year's Day is come and gone (I'd really like someone to bury the Packers, god).
After that, playoffs? I don't know. It really depends who they draw, but I know that's a cop-out answer. But I really don't know. It's been so long and it's so scary a thought. It's a thrilling thought, but terrifying. It's why I hope for the best seed possible too because it gives me a week to prepare my system for this shock.
Thanks to Chris and Pride of Detroit for stopping by!