Will the Lions’ schedule help make them better this year?
One point that has been brought up over and over again about the 2015 season is that it was really a tale of two halves. The obvious change causing the difference between the beginning of the year and the 6-2 finish would be Joe “obviously a saboteur sent by the Packers” Lombardi getting shown the door, but there’s more to it than just that. The second change (which many have mentioned) is that the second half of the 2015 season didn’t consist of the Lions running a brutal gauntlet of playoff teams like they did in the first half of the season. Was it Jim Bob Cooter? Was it the Lions’ Schedule? What lifted this team in the second half of the season? It probably isn’t down to just one thing, but today we will focus on next season’s schedule to determine if we can find a Honolulu blue and silver lining there. This brings us to 2016 and the realization that the Lions get the NFC East and AFC South. While both divisions will likely be better in 2016, here’s why they’re nowhere nearly as menacing as the Wild Wests were.
The Lions’ Schedule in the NFC East
Washington won this one in 2015 despite Kirk Cousins never beating a team with a winning record. That’s right! That tired old saying belongs to Kirk now! Let’s go celebrate, Matty! Sorry, back on track. While he had the league’s best completion percentage, Washington’s offense relied heavily on getting the ball out quick to playmakers and letting them eat up yards after the catch. If he has to throw over twenty yards, his numbers drop dramatically. If Levy is his old self upon his return, the dink and dunk offense is manageable. The Eagles found themselves in second place and are currently cleaning up Chip’s mess while wondering where all of their talent on offense went. At this point, we don’t know which QB first time head coach Doug Pederson wants under Center. Plus, we play them at home again. No snow shall ruin that day. The Giants limped into third on the shoulders of OBJ. The concern here is that they made some major moves on defense and JPP comes back sans his club. Hopefully, Slay can slow down OBJ long enough to get past Big Blue. Finally…Dallas, oh Dallas, what to make of you? I honestly don’t know if Romo coming back makes this team a contender again or if 8-8 becomes a lofty goal. What they do with the number four pick can change a lot, but one thing’s for sure—Detroit vs. Dallas never fails to impress.
The Lions’ Schedule in the AFC South
Another 9-7 Division Winner, the Texans got shut out on Wild Card weekend. They may have fixed one of the problems that led to that by replacing Brian Hoyer with Brock Osweiler, though their adding Lamar Miller worries me more. He seemed underused in Miami and might prove to be a handful if the Lions offense can’t stay on the field. The Colts are a lot like Dallas right now. Does Luck come back looking like he did in 2014? As of now they’ve done nothing to upgrade the offensive line which got him hurt in the first place (Luck played his part in that as well) and only added Patrick Robinson to a defense that was allowing 400 yards per game. Oddly enough, I’m more worried about the Jaguars than the Colts. Bortles steadily improved last year and the addition of Chris Ivory gives them a backfield that can wear down a defense. Luckily, the Lions front four should be hard to wear down. You know, because they’re gigantic. Lastly, the Titans. We’ll see if DeMarco Murray has more success in a different system but outside of him and Mariota, this roster is bad. This is odd, considering where they’ve been picking for the last several years.
So yes, it can be argued that both divisions have improved over free agency. Jacksonville started the league year with enough money to buy a small country and instead bought Malik Jackson. The Giants went a similar route and gave Oliver Vernon and Janoris Jenkins huge contracts that will undoubtedly put them in cap hell in roughly 3 years. That being said, it’s almost impossible to build a team through free agency unless your team is only missing a few pieces. See 2011 Philadelphia Eagles and conversely, the 2015 Denver Broncos. That’s why the Texans give me the most pause in what looks like a cakewalk compared to last year. They have a top ten defense and Nuk Hopkins on the other side of the ball. All they were really missing was a competent QB and an RB that could start past October—dammit. Hopefully Lamar Miller has the common courtesy to stay down the first time he’s tackled unlike that jerk, Justin Forsett.