Huddle Up: The Year of the Lions? By Jason King

 The Detroit Lions haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999.  Since then all three of Detroit ’s other professional teams have won championships. We have seen two United States Presidents since the Lions last played into January.  The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.13 in 1999.  I don’t want to go as far as saying hell will freeze over before the Lions get to the playoffs again, but I’m sure it feels that way to Lions fans.The Lions won the NFL championship in 1957.  In the 54 years since then,  Detroit has been to the playoffs only nine times.  The Arizona Cardinals own the longest drought in the NFL, not winning a championship in 64 years.  Still, the Lions are one of only four teams never to appear in a Super Bowl.  The other three are: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns.

Few fans have suffered like Lions fans.

This could be the year their fortunes change.  The NFC is stacked.  Seven teams won 10 or more games and 14 of the 16 teams in the conference won at least six games last year. The Lions were 6-10 and won their last 4 games.  They gained a lot of momentum at the end of last season and seemed to buy into what Jim Schwartz was teaching.  It looks like the Lions could be ready to take that next step.

They looked razor sharp in their preseason rout of the Cincinnati Bengals 34-3.  Matthew Stafford looked healthy as he led the Lions to touchdowns on his only two series.  He was 6-7 with 71 yards and 2 TD passes.  The 26-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson made Lions fans everywhere feel good.  Johnson ran an out route and Stafford threw a pin-point pass right at the pylon where only Johnson could catch it.  If they stay healthy this could be one of the most dynamic quarterback/wide receiver combinations in the NFL over the next 10 years.

The defense is a work in progress.  They looked good in the game against the Bengals, even intercepting rookie QB Andy Dalton on his first pass attempt.  Once again, they were playing the Bengals, nonetheless they looked impressive.

It’s only one preseason game but if the Lions can overcome some early injuries (DT Nick Fairley, RB Michael Leshoure, and LT Jeff Backus being the most prominent) and address their issues in the defensive secondary they could compete in a tough NFC.  One thing is for sure, the Lions are finally headed in the right direction.

Huddle Up

1. Cam Newton could make a big impact on the Carolina Panthers franchise:  The ovation Newton got when he came in the game was astounding for a preseason game.  Panthers fans are excited to see what Newton can do.  It will be interesting to see what effect he will have on that community.  He looked pretty good in the game.  He made some good throws and already looks like he has the respect of his teammates.

 2. The Bears don’t play by the same rules as everybody else.  They apparently didn’t get the memo that the new kickoff rules state that ALL kickoffs are at the 35.  They disregarded this and kicked their first two kickoffs from the 30.  Roger Godell please fine them heavily, especially since this was a premeditated act of disobedience.

3. Mario Williams needs time to adjust to his new role.  Slow up before calling him the next DeMarcus Ware.  Wade Phillips will have that defense a lot better than it was last year.  He got off to a good start, as they set a franchise preseason record with seven sacks in their preseason opener against the Jets. How quickly Williams finds his place could be a key to the Texans season.

4. The 49ers need a quarterback.  Jim Harbough must have been kicking himself watching the 49ers preseason opener on Friday night.  He probably thought “I should have stayed at Stanford because Andrew Luck is 10 times better than any quarterback I have on this roster.”  Seriously, Alex Smith looked horrible and Colin Kaepernick looked worse.  I expect Alex Smith to play better once he learns the system, but that could take a while.  There is hope, as 7 wins could win the NFC West again.

5. The Patriots put up 47 points in a preseason game which is a franchise record.  15 Patriot regulars sat out the game including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jerrod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth, and Chad Ochocinco.  Bill Bellichick really is a mad scientist.  He’ll run up the score in the preseason!!!

6. I get the feeling that a lot of teams will regret passing on Ryan Mallett in the April draft.  I don’t know if he will make his mark in New England , but we could look back at this draft 15 years from now and say Mallett was the best quarterback.

7.  Boy, the Colts need Peyton Manning to be healthy.  He is the most valuable player to his team PERIOD.  And nobody else is even close.  The Colts not having Manning would be just like the Cavaliers without LeBron James, from first to worst.  They would struggle to win 3 games.  It’s just another reason for Colts fans to be grateful for No. 18.

8.  First preseason games are meaningless.

9.  Greed is ruining college football.  These greedy bastards don’t give a damn about the integrity of student-athletes or collegiate athletics.  All they care about is money.  All we hear about are: scandals, recruiting violations, conference realignment, or adding more meaningless bowl games.  The play on the field is secondary.  Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said, “We’ve made no decision about terminating our relationship with the Big 12.” “This is all about what is best for Texas A&M, along with … visibility for us and our athletes and financial resources. That’s what it’s all about. I think anybody in my shoes would have exactly the same kinds of concerns.”  Key words are “visibility for us…and financial resources.”  Now we hear about the scandal at the University of Miami .  The landscape in college sports has to change.

10.  Its only one game, but the new kickoff rule is going to change the NFL.  Yes it will prevent scary injuries seen in recent years on kickoffs, but it will also result in more touchbacks.  Who this helps and hurts most are still to be determined and I think judgments on this matter need to be reserved for a season or two at least.

 

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

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