Ahead of tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins, the NFC North has played out as very few expected throughout the first three weeks of the 2019 season. Who would have thought the Green Bay Packers would be leading the crowd thus far with the defense as the star of the show? And how about those Bears? A team that was heavily favored by many to win the Super Bowl has tumbled out of the gates and is lucky even to be .500. But the biggest surprise of the 2019 season so far? The Detroit Lions.
Three weeks into the season, the Lions are 2-0-1
Be honest with yourself and just admit that outside of the scoring highlights, you haven’t watched a down of the Lions season thus far. Between the Miami Dolphins’ tanking fiasco, Antonio Brown’s shenanigans, and Minshew mania, there have been enough storylines to divert eyes from what has historically been one of the least popular franchises in the NFL. But with no one looking, Detroit has quietly put together quite the impressive early-season resume.
At 2-0-1, the Lions are “technically” one of eight undefeated teams after three weeks. Their one tie and only blemish came in Week 1 down in Arizona against the unpredictable Cardinals. In the debut of the Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury relationship, the Lions dominated that game for two and a half quarters. Murray looked lost, the Cardinals offense looked out of sync, the Lions’ defense looked like a legitimate top-10 unit, and Matthew Stafford was dealing. But that narrative quickly shifted in the second half when Murray led Arizona from 18 down to tie the game, brought it into overtime, and eventually both teams settled for a tie.
At the time, this seemed like the most Detroit thing to happen to the Lions. Year in and year out, this team boasts a roster filled with potential and upside, but can never bring it together with any consistency or finish. Week 1 projected more of the same for the 2019 Lions.
These last two weeks however, the Lions have shown that they have some juice. Last week’s 13-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers appeared to be an “oops” game for the Bolts. Two turnovers, two missed field goals, and miscommunication all day long seemed to suggest that LA lost that game more than Detroit won it. But then again yesterday, against a highly touted Philadelphia Eagles team, two more turnovers, three forced fumbles overall, and a monster kickoff return for a score led the Lions to a W at Lincoln Financial Field.
Yes, the Eagles were undermanned, the Chargers played about as bad as they could, and not beating the Cardinals is almost inexcusable. But, heading into Week 4 undefeated with as daunting an early schedule as they have had should be enough to turn some heads around the league.
The next stretch of games for Detroit
The next three games on Detroit’s schedule will likely show their true colors. Their next two opponents are arguably the two hottest teams in the league up to this point – a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs before heading to Lambeau for a Monday Night bout with the Packers coming out of the Lions bye. After that gauntlet comes another fierce division battle with the Minnesota Vikings. Fast forward three weeks and this team could very well be 2-3-1, crawling back into their corner of irrelevancy.
But with a coach that has appeared to have won over the locker room, an emerging young defense, and a healthy Matthew Stafford, maybe…just maybe, this will be the Lions team to break the trend of a cursed franchise.
Consistency is key
As alluded to earlier, the Achilles heel for this franchise has been consistency. Stafford, on a game-to-game basis, can match the play of any elite quarterback in the NFL. He just hasn’t been able to put it together for a whole season. The same thing can be said about that defense as well.
After just three weeks, it’s foolish to overreact and jump to any conclusions about any teams. Under the right circumstances, any team can thrive in a three-week stretch, but it’s much more challenging to put it together for the entire 16. As of right now, the Lions have positioned themselves in sole possession of second place in the NFC North. In a division as deep as this one, that is not an accolade to scoff at.
We knew heading into the 2019 season the Lions could be a dangerous team and play spoiler to some playoff hopes down the stretch. But to be in the playoff mix themselves? Unfathomable. Prior to the start of the regular season, the PFN team compiled their picks for each division for the 2019 season. Ranking the NFC North teams was a rather strenuous task, as almost every writer had the teams ranked in a different order than the next. The one common denominator across the board, however: The Lions were put dead last every single time.
Maybe this 2-0-1 start doesn’t lead to anything. But at the very least, this team deserves our attention and should be respected by every team in the league.