NFL Predictions: Analyzing Detroit Lions’ Best and Worst-Case Scenarios

The Detroit Lions took a major step forward last year. In a best-case scenario, they're NFC North champs. Worst case? Jared Goff follows a familiar script.

Let’s be clear, the Detroit Lions took a major step forward last season. We don’t often say that about a team that missed the playoffs. For this franchise, however, playing for a way into the NFL playoffs in the final week of the season felt like an arrival for the Dan Campbell era. Almost as if it cemented him and his culture building. The locker room had already clearly bought in, but now the public is seemingly buying in, too.

Predicting the Best-Case Scenario for the Detroit Lions’ 2023 NFL Season

The Lions realistically have a chance at competing for the NFC North crown. I don’t know if they’re yet ready to be considered Super Bowl contenders, but winning the division is a real possibility.

There are several reasons, but for starters, one major obstacle has been removed. The departure of Aaron Rodgers to New York gives the Lions a much clearer pathway to NFC North glory and should alter the look of the NFC North standings.

It’s been 30 years since Detroit last won an NFC North division title. Since Rodgers was drafted in 2005, the Packers have won the division nine times. That’s as many times as any other team has won it — combined. And when we say “any other team,” we mean the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears because the Lions have never won it in that timespan.

With Rodgers gone, the next obstacle will be the Vikings, since the Green Bay Packers will finally be seeing what they have in Jordan Love, and that brings a whole host of unknowns.

The Vikings, however, are believed to have overachieved by many. They won an impressive 13 games, but at no point in 2022 did they feel like a Super Bowl contender, or even an NFC favorite. Minnesota played an incredible amount of one-score games that they won but could just have easily lost.

The sustainability of that is not likely, and the Vikings have real flaws throughout their roster. Those flaws were not definitively improved upon in the offseason.

MORE: 2024 FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator — With Trades

The Vikings had only four losses in 2022, and the Lions were one of the teams who beat them. The second game between the two was one of those one-score games where Minnesota prevailed. Beating the Vikings is something Detroit can seriously do twice in 2023.

The Bears are not really thought to be serious contenders in 2023. The Lions swept them in 2022. After winning a one-point game in November, Detroit absolutely dominated Chicago in the final game of the regular season. The Bears are still rebuilding, and Justin Fields still has a ways to go in his development. The Lions don’t really need to consider them a threat.

There’s a realistic possibility Detroit goes undefeated in the division or possibly loses one or two games at most. They’re the best team in the NFC North and have the most stable environment.

Detroit’s defense really turned it around last year, and they added reinforcements in the draft. Their offense is top three in football in their ability to put up points in a hurry. If the Lions’ defense can get better and get them the ball back, the NFC North is there for the taking.

Predicting the Worst-Case Scenario For the Lions’ 2023 NFL Season

Not only is winning the NFC North the best-case scenario, it’s also likely the most realistic. A lot would have to go wrong for Detroit to miss this opportunity. In the NFL, Murphy’s Law can quickly take hold. If the Lions can avoid that, they should be fine.

But what if they can’t?

The first concern has to be Jared Goff taking a step backward. Goff has certainly moved his way back up the QB Power Rankings, and we’ve seen signs of brilliance from him before. When Sean McVay first got to Los Angeles, Goff really seemed to have turned the corner from the Jeff Fischer years, and reached a Super Bowl in 2018.

That year, Goff threw for almost 4,700 yards and 32 touchdowns (both career highs). He had a passer rating over 101 and threw for only 12 interceptions.

It seemed crazy at the time the Rams would ever consider trading him. However, the following year, there were signs of a drop-off. Goff’s yards stayed roughly the same, but he threw for 10 fewer touchdowns and four more interceptions. The following year, it got even worse.

In what would be his final season with the Rams before being traded to Detroit, Goff threw for under 4,000 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. It was a far cry from the 2018 season and his second consecutive season of regression.

MORE: NFL Predictions — Ranking the Giants’ Best and Worst-Case 2023 NFL Season Scenarios

If that happens in Detroit, the Lions will miss the playoffs. That’s not even a question. Last year, they missed the playoffs with a top-three offense in scoring behavior. In fact, of any team that had one starting quarterback from start to finish, the Lions had the top-scoring behavior rate in all of football, averaging over one full point per minute of possession time.

With the defense still getting its footing and identity, after a strong finish to 2022, Detroit cannot afford any steps back. A regression from Goff would be a major blow to the Lions and the worst-case scenario.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Join the Conversation!

Related Articles