The Detroit Lions‘ first game of the season was a roller coaster ride. The offense looked absolutely terrible and couldn’t move the ball downfield whatsoever. After Matthew Stafford‘s pick six on the first drive, the next two drives were three-and-outs. At that point, the Lions found themselves trailing by 10 to the Arizona Cardinals.
However, on the ensuing drive the Lions marched the ball down the field, and scored a touchdown. But the extra point failed after a botched hold. Then, Matt Prater hit a clutch 58-yard field goal with just second left and put the Lions only down one heading into half. Yet, the offense only accounted for 139 yards, and looked very stagnant throughout the first 30 minutes.
The real story of the first half, and really the game, was the great defense that was on display. Rookie Jarrad Davis led the team with 9 tackles, and the team picked off Carson Palmer three times. But a big problem was that the defensive line accrued a total of one sack. The defense was effective at keeping the game close after countless mistakes by both the special teams and the struggling offense.
The second half was a completely different story. The defense kept working hard and making great plays, but the offense finally started to take shape. Stafford came out throwing and scored another 3 touchdowns, 2 of which went to rookie Wide Receiver Kenny Galloday. Golden Tate ended the day with an incredible 10 receptions for 107 yards, and the Lions came back to defeat the Cardinals 35-23.
Why This Win Was So Important
This could honestly be one of the biggest wins in the season. I know that is not something typically heard after a Week One victory, but this was a big one. The Lions defeated an AFC opponent that some believe could be a Wild Card team after a disappointing 2016 season. On top of that, the Lions have great momentum as they will face some very tough AFC opponents early this season.
Next week, the Lions will face the New York Giants. The Giants looked awful on Sunday Night Football as they were trounced by the Dallas Cowboys. However, the Giants played without superstar Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. If he returns to play next week against the Lions, expect the Giants offense to be rolling again. In fact, last season the Lions were defeated by the Giants in East Rutherford, and were held touchdown-less, scoring only 6 points. This game will once again be in New Jersey and should be a toss up on their schedule.
Week Three the Lions will face the reigning AFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons underperformed against the Chicago Bears this weekend. As a matter of fact, they were forced to make a goal-line stand in the final seconds of the game to claim victory. However, I expect them to have their offense going by Week Three, and that should scare Lions fans. The key to this game will be shutting down the run and making Matt Ryan throw the football to any receiver not named Julio Jones. That is no easy task, but it is one the Bears were able to accomplish, so why can’t we? This game will be at Ford Field, and once again should be another toss up.
Beyond Week Three
The Lions first 8 games should all be very close ones. Their first half schedule is one of the toughest in the NFL as they will face the Vikings, Panthers, Saints, Steelers, and the Packers in order. These teams all have the potential to be top teams in their division and the Packers are always a fierce division rival. The Lions need to go at least .500 in the first half or else their playoff chances are very unlikely.
However, the back end of the season isn’t as mighty. The Lions will face the Bears twice, the Browns, the struggling Bengals, the Ravens, the Buccaneers, and the Packers and Vikings again in this time span. There should be at least 6 wins in this batch of 8 games. This would mean that the Lions would go 10-6 and be a playoff team if everything goes to plan.
A win in the inaugural game of 2017 was so important for the Detroit Lions. To start off 1-0 means the Lions only need to win 3 of their next 7 to stay on track. Ideally, they would win them all, but I don’t think this team is the 2007 Patriots. That being said, I do think they have the potential to be a very special team this season. Especially after the impressive defense that was on display this past week. The Lions will dictate their own future this season, and they will have to perform well in the first half to have a chance at making a run at the Super Bowl.