Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Oct 2011

ESPN: Detroit Needs to Diversify Its Offense

The Lions' pass offense has been impressive in their 4-0 start, but what about that 30th-ranked running game? This week's Monday Night Football column looks at how the disparity between the two raises red flags about Detroit's Super Bowl prospects.

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 09 Oct 2011

9 comments, Last at 11 Oct 2011, 3:28pm by Joseph


by Illmatic74 :: Sun, 10/09/2011 - 9:48pm

8 of the 10 teams you mentioned made the playoffs and 9 of the 10 teams had winning records so the Lions aren't in bad company. Then the theisis is they need to change or they can't win in the playoffs but for one no one expects the Lions to play in the Super Bowl this season and the playoffs are sort of a crapshoot so just because similar teams haven't won the Super Bowl doesn't mean they have no chance.

by t.d. :: Sun, 10/09/2011 - 10:25pm

Super Bowl?!? The Lions? Are you high? But seriously, the Lions are a great story, but they're still a draft away from being a complete team. The last two weeks have exposed them a little, even if they were able to pull it out in the end

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:22am

In short, yes.

by BJR :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:07am

Maybe, but the Lions are also pretty damned unlucky that they are stuck in a division with Green Bay. Otherwise their 4-0 start would have them eyeing a possible first round bye in a conference where nobody else other than the Packers looks dominant.

by Joseph :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:57pm

I'm going to "bet" that the NFC playoffs look pretty much like #1 Pack, #2 Saints, #3 49ers, #4 Redskins, #5 Lions (who will have a better record than at least the Skins & maybe the Niners), and #6 will be, um, the Bucs? Falcons? Giants? Cowboys? If this is the case, I think a 11-5/12-4 Detroit team and their fanbase will want to win at least 1 playoff game. So, unless the Niners get the #4 seed with the Skins (who at least look like the best NFCE team at this point) getting the #3, the Lions would have to go to DC & then to GB=cold weather, where running the ball solidly takes on more importance.
In other words, the article is spot on. The Lions look like a good playoff team whose seeding will be lower than their record and ability. If they want to make the NFCCG, they'll have to win in the cold, or get lucky to go to SF & then NO before going to GB. [Of course, if Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Calvin Johnson have a season-ending injury in the next couple of weeks, this will make all of this moot.]

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 12:20am

A Detroit-GB playoff game at Lambeau might be fascinating. Both teams need to spread the field, and neither can run consistently.

by Spielman :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 10:35am

If the playoff seeds shake out like that, then the Lions lose in the first round. The Lions have never beaten the Redskins in Washington. 0-21.

I know that past performances are not indicative of future results, but I'm just flat out superstitious about this one. I think the Redskins have some kind of anti-Lion forcefield that just isn't portable.

by Joseph :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 3:28pm

Now, that is an eye-opening stat.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:40am

Wait, you're trying to explain that bad things might happen in the playoffs? OK, but 0-16 and Matt Millen. I can deal with a playoff loss.

Anyway, it's not like a balanced offense did the last set of Lions playoff teams that much good:

1994: Pass 9, rush 2, lost in wild-card round
1995: Pass 5, rush 12, lost in wild-card round

Besides, there's something else that all those teams you listed have in common. None of them were better than 10th in defensive DVOA. (Surprisingly, the team that was 10th was the 2008 Colts.) Three of those teams, the Giants, Cardinals, and Broncos, weren't even in the top half of the league overall.

Most of those teams had significantly weaker defenses than offenses: the smallest disparity was the 2008 Colts, 6th in offense and 10th in defense. The Lions, through week 4, are actually the other way around, 15th in offense and 3rd in defense. I think I'd rather have a solid defense than a solid running game ...