Each week, we reach out to our friends at the opponents blog. When it comes to division rivals, we get a chance to do it twice. Given some of the things that Chris from Pride of Detroit says in our exchanges, I’m not so sure he likes the Bears or Chicago - let’s just say he’s on the fence about some things.
Windy City Gridiron: The Lions are 7-6, staring at a final schedule of the Bears, Bengals, and a finale with the Packers. 10-6 might not even make the wildcard, but I feel certain that 9-7 definitely won't. What are the chances that the Lions run the table and get to 10-6 and make the playoffs?
Pride of Detroit: Bad, not good and I don't care what our fearless leader Jeremy Reisman tries to say otherwise. I've watched enough Lions to know that this is a fools gold of all magnitude. Maybe the Lions DO run the table, because the remaining slate includes your sorry wart of a team*, the Bengals and...oh right, yes, of course, it's the @*#$%#@ Packers right as Aaron Rodgers gets back from what should have been an injury that kept him out all season. God. Just end this nightmare. I want to like Rodgers even, I want to respect the Packers because there's small things in these places, in history and in a great quarterback and how it's the only franchise not shackled to the whims of an insane coked-out billionaire, but I cannot, I cannot join those thoughts because this menace crushes all hope. At least with the Bears, your franchise and your team and your city are just utterly despicable in every sense and you deserve the loathing**. The Packers crushing Detroit hopes just feels awful.
Anyway, I got distracted again. 9-7 will probably not make the wild card, not with the NFC South ready to fight each other to end the year. But that same fight, especially with Falcons and Panthers set to meet in the last week, could potentially open the door if one of those two teams does not perform well leading up to that game, or if the Seahawks drop off. That said, it's all wishing for a lot of things that are outside of the control of the Lions, and the Lions don't have much control when it comes to the fact that they have yet to put out a steady performance all year.
*Hey wait! Oh, well, there’s probably some truth to that
**Now stop it right there! Hate the team all you want but Chicago > Detroit every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
WCG: Many Bears fans have shifted into offseason mode. While Lions fans are deservedly holding out hope for a postseason, can you tell us where the Lions should focus their efforts in the offseason? Is there a position group that desperately needs an influx of talent?
PoD: The front seven remains an on-going project that requires more answers to more questions. Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis crashed down to earth after an early rush to glory, and that needs to get tweaked. More pressing needs are going to arise on the edge rushers, especially since Ezekiel Ansah hasn't produced well and his contract will become a question before long (the other edge isn't worth speaking about, while I like Anthony Zettel the chance he becomes an adequate pass rusher is slim).
But sooner or later, the Lions need to establish the run game. That's a meme, and it's one I indulge in because slackjawed mumblers on national television always make mention of it, as if the Lions could, in a given game, establish a run with its current stable of backs and with its completely mismatched offensive line-plus-scheme. But in the offseason question, it's unironically true. Besides fixing its run scheme, the Lions run personnel is just not good enough. Ameer Abdullah was a healthy scratch last week, which slams shut the door that this is going to work. The Lions need to stop futzing around and think about a feature back, but I don't know where they get that from. I don't think free agency, but I also don't think that a first round RB pick is feasible with so many critical defensive needs.
WCG: One area where the Lions are doing quite well is the wide receiver spot. Marvin Jones is having an outstanding year and Golden Tate continues to be the efficient chain-mover in the offense but they don't seem to get the publicity of similarly effective duos. Do you think these guys are underrated nationally?
PoD: Yes, on several levels. Golden Tate is still one of my favorite players in football. I enjoy receivers who are versatile and who have minds that go to strange and unearthly places when they play football. Golden Tate could go down as one of the better receivers in Lions history, and certainly he should get accolades somewhere because his ability to make yards after completion is remarkable.
Marvin Jones is starting to play reliably, which his lack thereof was always my knock on him back in Cincinnati. He's surprised me with many of his plays, and he's got the tools to remain physical and beat those trying to cover him for a jump ball, much as Calvin Johnson used to. He's never going to get separation like Golden Tate, but as long as he can get that vertical height he won't need to. As you say, they're two different flavors that compliment each other very well.
When it comes to the lack of national attention, I suppose I get it. Matthew Stafford has gotten the main draw of attention, in part because of his wild 2016 season and in part because of his mega contract. And in the end, the Lions are just not a team that floats in the national media's interest; when you do get them to talk about the Lions it turns out to be the tired patronizing "well we better talk about them now" crap.
WCG: As we near the end of the year, what's your initial evaluation of this rookie class?
PoD: Honestly I don't know what we learned about the 2017 class. Teez Tabor didn't play much until the past few weeks, and with all corners he needs time to develop and get comfortable in the NFL. That said, I've liked what I've seen. Meanwhile, everyone in Detroit got very excited about Kenny Golladay after a stellar preseason, but injury and low use have made the picture unfinished. Jalen Reeves-Maybin filled in admirably but his skill leaves something to be desired.
As for Jarrad Davis, I mentioned before that he cratered back down to earth. He had a good run of games early before the carriage turned into a pumpkin. He needs serious development, but I also recognize the bar for any progress for the Lions linebackers is low. I'm not worried that a rookie is suddenly playing like a rookie, but I do expect to see progress next year.
2017's class is probably best described as "unpolished." It remains to be seen if any will become long-term members of this team's future. I can say that with certainty about some of the guys from 2016, like A'Shawn Robinson and Taylor Decker. I can't say that yet for 2017's class.
WCG: Jim Schwartz is doing a great job in Philadelphia this year and is a name being bandied about for head coaching jobs. I personally can't wrap my mind around it since I've built up so much animosity toward him during his stint in Motown. So, let's ask it this way - would you be happy if the Bears hired Schwartz and what would they be getting if they did.
PoD: The fact that a former Lions head coach is potentially going to get another big time gig, something that hasn't happened in over 50 years or so (Dick Jauron doesn't count), should speak volumes of damnation about the state of the NFL's brain trust, their inability to find anyone with new ideas. Absolutely nothing to do but recycle dreg after dreg. Like a bad pair of gym shorts, you can't get the stink out no matter how much you wash them.
I recently put out an essay about Thanksgiving Lions football and I had to go back and watch that awful game where Gym Shorts threw the useless challenge flag against the Texans. If anyone wants to hire him, by all means, go ahead and enjoy the stink.
Thanks to Chris and Pride of Detroit for the time and information.