Despite their 20-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 18, the Detroit Lions 9-8 record wasn’t quite enough for them to qualify for the playoffs. They may have posted their first winning record since 2017, but they were eliminated on the final Sunday of the season.
No matter where they ended at the finish line, it sure seems like this team is working out a lot of its old kinks. Once considered an NFL lemon, the Silver and Blue machine has an awful lot under the hood now. Bolstered by a bold head coach, a comeback kid at quarterback, and emerging young stars on both offense and defense, they finished strong and were definitely firing on all cylinders down the stretch.
After winning only three games last year, they’re considered one of the most improved squads of the 2022 campaign. They’ve also been one of the more fast-paced and fun teams to watch, with playmakers seemingly everywhere you look.
It all came down to a Seattle Seahawks overtime win early in the day to make the Detroit-Green Bay game irrelevant…at least for the Lions. They still played hard during the evening’s contest, eliminating the Pack on their way to finishing off the schedule.
The Detroit Lions are Suited to Make the 2023-24 NFL Playoffs
2023 will be a totally different story for this team. With another season of experience and more high draft picks, the Lions should be poised to pounce come this time next year. And they shouldn’t need a lot of help to get to the next level.
Here are five big factors that will make Detroit a dangerous playoff contender in 2023
Jamaal Williams – Running Back
While he was once considered second fiddle to former second-round draft pick D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams took control of the running back position and never looked back. In fact, he became one of the most important parts of the Detroit offense.
He carried the ball for 1,066 yards. Most importantly, he showed he was a scoring threat; Williams scored 17 touchdowns in the 2022 campaign.
His presence means that the team is set at the spot for now, as both Williams and Swift should get plenty of carries in 2023. However, it will be Williams who will shoulder most of the burden in a ball-control offense.
Aidan Hutchinson and the Detroit Lions defense
Aidan Hutchinson was considered either big-time or bust prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, depending on who you asked. The Michigan native and former Wolverine stayed right there in The Mitten as the Lions selected him with the second overall pick.
The Lombardi Award winner didn’t disappoint, notching 9.5 sacks and three interceptions in an impressive rookie campaign.
Hutchinson wasn’t the only standout on a quickly developing defensive unit. Safety Kerby Joseph had four picks and linebacker Alex Anzalone paced the squad with 77 tackles. Look for the Lions to add some playmakers in the upcoming draft to add some star power to this side of the ball, as well.
A revitalized Jared Goff has put up big numbers down the stretch
The often maligned signal-caller had a rebirth in 2022, especially late in the year. He showed much of the poise that he displayed early in his career as a young quarterback with the Eagles.
His numbers were certainly up to Pro Bowl standards. Goff connected on 382-of-587 passes for a 65.1% completion rating. He had 4,438 yards through the air, adding 29 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.
Most importantly, Goff’s return to form gives the team a lot more flexibility in terms of drafting a future, franchise quarterback. Following a rough 2021 season, fans were eyeing the multiple first-round selections this spring and sizing up which NCAA play-caller might be a good fit.
That’s all changed now, as the team can likely spend those premium picks on a defensive playmaker, or a stud offensive lineman. They could still potentially take a quarterback, but there’s no real rush. Goff is the man to lead the team in 2023, and he should have them in the driver’s seat for a postseason berth.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Amon St. Brown is the gift that keeps on giving. As a fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft, the wideout is a pleasant surprise for fans of the Silver and Blue. He’s emerged as a go-to receiver who has a knack for making big plays. For a team that was long in search of a scoring threat, he fits the bill quite nicely.
He’s already among the elite targets in the NFL. St. Brown and Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson stand at the top of a crop of young and talented NFC North receivers, and the USC product is steadily improving.
In just his second season, he’s continued to surpass expectations. St. Brown notched over 100 catches and 1100 yards on the season. He also reached the end zone six times.
The 6’0″, 200 lbs. burner fits the blueprint of an NFL playmaker, and he should be Detroit’s most dangerous weapon going forward. Look for him to put up the kind of numbers that Lions fans got used to seeing from all-time great Calvin Johnson. The kid is that good.
Coach Dan Campbell
Campbell is one of those guys who was born to be a Head Coach in the NFL. He speaks with strength and has strong convictions when it comes to his players. Bottom line: he’s the kind of dude you want leading the troops if they’ve been cornered in a crossfire.
It’s that ‘take-charge’ approach that has given this young Lions team an extra dose of confidence. Campbell’s coaching down the stretch was especially impressive, as he seemingly willed his team to some important victories.
Campbell has shown good decision-making and play-calling abilities. As his players mature around him and the franchise adds more pieces, it’s totally conceivable that he could be the leader who finally breaks the ‘Curse of Bobby Layne‘ in the Motor City.
A Super Bowl may sound far-fetched right now, but Campbell has been the franchise’s best bet in a long, long time. It will be interesting to see if he’s building a proven winner or a flash in the pan up in Detroit.