The Detroit Lions began the season 2021-2022 season in just about the worst fashion possible, losing their first eight games before a 16-16 tie in week 10 with the Steelers to make them 0-8-1. For what it is worth, they were much better by the end of the season than they were when they kicked off in week 1, as they closed the year 3-3 in their last 6 matchups. This 3-13-1 performance in Dan Campbell's debut season led to the Detroit Lions selecting Aiden Hutchinson out of Michigan with the second overall pick in the draft to add a fierce edge rusher to their defensive line as they revamped the roster, jumped on Hard Knocks, and are ready to try and take a step forward in their rebuild in an NFC North division that could be slightly underwhelming this year.
Depth Chart Strengths
Offensive Line: Even with starting RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai heading to the IR for at least 4 games, this OL is surprisingly solid, especially on the left side. Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, and Frank Ragnow start at Left Tackle, Left Guard, and Center respectively and all have proven their ability to excel at their positions. While the same may not be able to be said for Penei Sewell, offensive linemen tend to take a season or two to develop and adjust to the speed of the NFL game, I think we will see improvements from him as long as he can stay healthy, and if he can, I think this can actually be a top 16 (above average) offensive line.
Running Backs: D'Andre Swift provides a versatile skill set coming out of the backfield both as a ball carrier and as a route runner/receiver. Jared Goff likes to check down often, and when he does, Swift will always be there and has the ability to make a play after the catch. Swift is not the only asset in this group though. Jamaal Williams has shown himself to be a leader in training camp and a bully on the field and on the goal line. With Craig Reynolds also showing flashes in games last season and more recently in the preseason along with the offensive line being a strength as well, I think this group of running backs is not only deep with talent, but also with potential. Something important to note that we will return to later is that the Lions added RB coach Duce Staley, who has apparently gotten along quite well with Swift already and wants to help him achieve some lofty goals that Swift has set for himself.
Depth Chart Weaknesses
Wide Receiver: As much as I personally am a fan of Amon-Rah St-Brown and D.J Chark, neither of them are guys that I would really consider up to the task to be the WR1 on a good team at this moment, and one of them will have to step up into that role. There is definitely depth in this room, I like Josh Reynolds and Quintez Cephus, but the star power just is not there. Jameson Williams may return from injury and become that guy, but for right now they simply do not have a wideout that the QB can see as his favorite target or a go-to guy who can change the outcome of the game on one or two plays on a weekly basis.
Quarterback: Jared Goff is a bottom ten player at his position (of those who are currently starting), that has to be considered a weakness even if you believe in him and think that he will have a better year this year, surely the Lions fanbase is aware that he is not anybody's franchise Quarterback.
Linebackers: Alex Anzalone is getting older and slower and Chris Board is an average player at best, which is not a bad thing but it can become one if the team expects you to play a bigger role than you've ever played before. If it is not him, that will put a lot of pressure on 6th-round rookie Malcolm Rodriguez to step up into a leadership role quite quickly, that does not bode well for this group in my opinion, although he could be good in the future.
Jeff Okudah: This is a make-or-break season for the former 3rd overall pick, who Dan Campbell stated has earned the starting job after an impressive performance in training camp. He absolutely needs to be productive in this starting role, otherwise the secondary, which is not exactly swimming in a surplus of productive cornerbacks, may just fall apart. If he is able to perform, this secondary may be able to survive and maybe even show some signs of life and success, but it all depends on Okudah, they invested the pick and time into him, and now they want to see it pay off.
D.J Chark: He needs to be the deep threat that opens up the rest of the field for his teammates and spreads the defense thin. If he isn't they don't really have another outside threat that can occupy the safeties and open up the middle of the field for guys like St-Brown, Swift, and Hockenson to have more room to operate after the catch. D.J Chark is much more important to this team than people think, if he can even present a problem for the safeties over the top, especially in a cover 2, he can open up some space for receivers working in the middle while Swift occupies the LB's or he can find that gap between the flat zone and the deeper zone that the safety is in along the sideline. If Chark can play this role well, he can help make this into a fluid and dangerous offense.
Team Grades*A Higher Schedule Grade Means an Easier Schedule
Receiving Options: C+
Coaching: B- (only for lack of experience across the staff)
Schedule Prediction (8-9)
Week 1 vs PHI: Loss Week 10 @ CHI: Win
Week 2 vs WAS: Win Week 11 @ NYG: Win
Week 3 @ MIN: Loss Week 12 vs BUF: Loss
Week 4 vs SEA: Win Week 13 vs JAX: Win
Week 5 @ NE: Loss Week 14 vs MIN: Loss
Bye Week Week 15 @ NYJ: Win
Week 7 @ DAL: Loss Week 16 @ CAR: Win
Week 8 vs MIA: Loss Week 17 vs CHI: Win
Week 9 vs GB: Loss Week 18 @ GB: Loss
No, I don't think it will be pretty, and yes I think it will require the Lions to win 3 straight in weeks 15-17 and to pull off 4 wins in 5 weeks, but I think with the way their schedule is built combined with the team culture they seem to be building where they absolutely refuse to give up, I can see them scratching this number. I don't see how they could get over .500 to be honest, but Caesars Sportsbook has their win total set at 6.5, which I think they can hit with all of these factors going for them, but we only are placing 1u on it because it will require a sweat in the last few weeks of the season.
Lions Over 6.5 wins 1u will be our last future that we give out through these articles,
A reminder that our other picks we have made here before the season starts were:
Eagles to win the NFC East +140 (now +110) 3u
Eagles OVER 9.5 wins 2u
Titans UNDER 9.5 wins 3u
and now Lions OVER 6.5 wins 1u.
Let's kill it this season.