The Detroit Lions Are Set To Be NFL Darlings in 2023

The Detroit Lions are one of the most exciting teams in the NFL. But why are they opening up the season against the Kansas City Chiefs?

After leaks assured us that the Detroit Lions would meet the Super Bowl champions to open the NFL season, it was clear that last year’s Hard Knocks stars were going to be league stars in 2023. Detroit and Kansas City meet Thursday, Sept. 7.

The Lions are one of the most exciting teams in the league, despite not having a young, elite QB to boast. What they have is charisma oozing from their head coach that has provided us with an intoxicating culture surrounding the organization over the past 12 months.

“We are fricking starving … so the hyenas better get out of the way,” is what Dan Campbell told fans at an open practice last August.

The Detroit Lions Are 2023’s Denver Broncos

That doesn’t mean that Detroit will suffer the same fate as Denver did a season ago. The NFL could have paired the Super Bowl champs against a bevy of other teams to kick off the season.

They could have ran back the Super Bowl against Philadelphia. Or offered a rematch of the historically good 2021 Divisional Round game against the Buffalo Bills, giving us Josh Allen against Patrick Mahomes. And we mustn’t forget Joe Burrow’s Bengals, the Chiefs’ one seeming kryptonite (save for last season’s AFC Championship Game). Each of those games would have provided an outstanding matchup against teams almost guaranteed to be deep playoff-run contenders.

No, instead, we get the Lions. We get Jared Goff versus Mahomes, just what everyone dreamed of.

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While on the surface the matchup is head-tilting, the NFL rarely makes mistakes early in the season. And unless there are unforeseen circumstances before Sept. 7, the league knocked this one out of the park — striking while the iron is hot.

What if Detroit is 2023’s version of the Denver Broncos? What if a few offensive line injuries occur, and Goff slowly shrinks and transforms into the corn cob we saw late in his time with the Rams? Well, we won’t know that until it happens, but it could at any point throughout the season. If the Lions fail spectacularly in their quest for improvement, the ratings would have suffered later in the season.

The Bengals and Bills will always be there, barring unforeseen circumstances on their ends. Buffalo and Cincinnati have both proven to be AFC contenders over the past few seasons. They’ll earn ratings at any time from Week 1 to Week 18. The same is not guaranteed with Detroit, no matter how exciting they are right now.

Lions’ Roster Improvements Offer Excitement to a Starving Fanbase

After being objectively horrific against the pass in 2023 (23rd in pass DVOA, 27th in dropback success rate, 30th in dropback EPA, and 31st in net yards per pass attempt), it was clear that Detroit needed to do something.

Adding Cameron Sutton, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Emmanuel Moseley should certainly help their cause. Receiving a healthy Tracy Walker III in 2023 (three games in 2022) and a likely improved Kerby Joseph gives the Lions a trio of safeties to play with defensively against different offensive personnel groupings. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is already aware of that with Gardner-Johnson.

“It’s limitless on what he can do,” Glenn told reporters after the Saints drafted the safety in 2019. “He does have the speed and the mentality to go out there and play corner. But he can play nickel, he can play in the box, he can play deep safety. You have fun with players like that, now.”

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That group is in addition to an already impressive defensive front consisting of John Cominsky, Alim McNeill, Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Paschal, James Houston, and the Okwara brothers.

Detroit didn’t struggle offensively in 2022. They finished fifth in DVOA, sixth in EPA, and fourth in offensive points per drive. If the Lions remain relatively healthy on both sides of the ball early on in 2023 they could provide a shot of excitement to the fanbase that it’s not used to feeling. And that feeling of hope is already there and ripe for the picking.

That is why the Lions are facing the Super Bowl champions to kick off the season. Because that hope will bring ratings.

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