NFL

Detroit Lions

Division: NFC NorthGM: Martin MayhewHead Coach: Jim Schwartz
2012: 4-12 (3rd in North)vs. division 0-6
Points23.2 (17th)
Yards408.8(3rd)
Pass Yards307.9 (2nd)
Rush Yards100.8 (23rd)

Lions aim to return to post-season

Key Additions

RB R.Bush, S G.Quin, K D.Akers
DE I.Idonije, DE J.Jones,
OG L.Harris, OG J.Scott

Key Subtractions

DE C.Avril, LB J.Durant,
OT G.Cherilus, OT Backus,
DE L.Jackson, RB K.Smith,
DE K.Vanden Bosch, K J.Hanson

A year after their young core led the Lions to their first playoff berth since 1999, all signs pointed to Detroit taking another step forward and perhaps winning a playoff round last season. Those hopes quickly faded when the Lions reached their Week 5 bye with a 1-3 record.

Detroit was able to regroup and get back to 4-4 at the midway mark, but they failed to register another win on the year, losing eight straight.

A year after throwing for over 5,000 yards, quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled with his mechanics and saw his numbers suffer because of it.

Stafford's woes had very little impact on the game's best receiver Calvin Johnson, who set a record for the most receiving yards in a single season with 1,964. Johnson's gaudy numbers came largely thanks to garbage time, those special moments in the fourth quarter where the game is out of reach. It's a time when the Lions' offence thrives.

Johnson has shown an ability to overcome any coverage and his five touchdowns could have easily been 11, since he was tackled inside the two yard-line a shocking six times.

There will be an interesting camp battle waged to decide who starts opposite Johnson. Veteran Nate Burleson was dependable before suffering an injury last season, but the same can be said for the young wideout that replaced him Ryan Broyles.

Broyles is apparently way ahead of schedule as he works back from an ACL tear. The 5'10, 192-pound receiver flashed his ability in a six-catch, 126-yard performance in Week 12 last year. The Lions did very little to add to their receiving corps in the off-season so they must be confident in Broyles returning to form.

If teams fine a way to deal with Johnson (they won't), the Lions have several other weapons now in their pass-happy arsenal.

Reggie Bush is the newest addition to the backfield and he is one of the best pass catching tailbacks in the league. He will fit nicely into the role formerly occupied by Jahvid Best, prior to Best's career-ending injuries. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan plans to use Bush in every way possible, so a big year is likely coming if he can stay healthy.

Stafford has managed to stay healthy for two straight seasons, but his offensive line is in a state of change and the results could put his health back in question.

Stalwarts Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus are no longer with the team. That has forced tackle Reilly Reiff to become the blindside protector and rookie Larry Warford will move into the starting lineup from day one. On top of that right tackle is wide open, with two unproven options in Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox.

Seeing more pressure will certainly not help Stafford fix his footwork, but it won't stop Linehan from doing what he loves to do - call passing plays. (-TSN.ca)

Analysis: Ansah is a superb athlete, who the Lions hope can turn into the next Jason Pierre-Paul. The Lions lost both their starters at defensive end from 2012, opening the door for Ansah to contribute immediately. While he needs more experience, he has the ability to become an impact player... The Lions' pass coverage has been their weakest link for years and Slay should have a shot to play right away. Much like Ansah, he is a raw prospect, but he will compete with Bill Bentley for a starting job... Third-round guard Warford is a strong run blocker, who can open holes in the running game. (-TSN.ca)

Round 1 5th overall Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU
Round 2 36th overall Darius Slay CB Mississippi State
Round 3 65th overall Larry Warford G Kentucky
Round 4 132nd overall Devin Taylor DE South Carolina
Round 5 165th overall Sam Martin P Appalachian State
Round 6 171st overall Corey Fuller WR Virginia Tech
Round 6 199th overall Theo Riddick RB Notre Dame
Round 7 211th overall Michael Williams TE Alabama
Round 7 245th overall Brandon Hepburn LB Florida A&M

Putting the D in Detroit

The true weakness for Detroit remains their defence, which allowed the 27th most points in 2012.

Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley give the Lions a powerful pass rushing force in the middle of their defensive line and they will make life easier on their new defensive ends by drawing double teams.

NFC NORTH PROJECTIONS

Packers (14-2)

1st in NFC, first-round bye


Bears (10-6)

One game out of playoffs


Vikings (9-7)

Ponder can't take next step


Lions (4-12)

Missing something in Motown

Rookie Ezekiel Ansah will take over at defensive end and has the raw athleticism to make an impact immediately, similar to Jevon Kearse's rookie season in Tennessee where he let his raw ability do most of the work. At the other end of the line, Israel Idonije and Jason Jones will make a veteran rotation.

Behind their line, the Lions lack playmakers. Stephen Tulloch has done a nice job as the team's middle linebacker, but their other linebackers leave a lot to be desired.

They finally decided to address their secondary, which has been one of the worst units in the league for a few years now. Chris Houston is serviceable as a top corner and Louis Delmas is a solid strong safety against the run, but he struggles in coverage.

The Lions brought in free safety Glover Quin from the Texans and drafted Darius Slay to man the second cornerback slot. That will be an upgrade, but it may not be enough in a division which features the Packers' potent passing attack, a Bears' team now led by an offensive minded head coach, and the Vikings who just added Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson at receiver.

Another losing season will likely result in the end of head coach Jim Schwartz time in Detroit, so a lot is on the line for the Lions in 2013. If everything clicks, like it did in 2011, they could return to the post-season, but they will have to show they can overcome adversity. (-TSN.ca)

OFFENCE

DEFENCE

LT

R. Reiff
L. Waddle
A. Holtz

LG

R. Sims
R. Austin

C

D. Raiola
D. Keyton
L. Harris

RG

D. Gandy
J. Scott
L. Warford

RT

J. Fox
C. Hillard
D. Hardman

WR1

C. Johnson
R. Broyles
K. Durham
C. Fuller

TE

B. Pettigrew
T. Scheffler
J. Fauria
M. Williams

WR2

N. Burleson
M. Thomas
M. Spurlock
T. Austin

QB

M. Stafford
S. Hill
K. Moore
T. Lewis

FB

S. Chapas

RB

R. Bush
M. Leshoure
J.Bell
T. Riddick


Special Teams: K D. Akers, P S. Martin, KR M. Spurlock, PR M. Spurlock

Fantasy - By The Numbers

After leading the league in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons, including a record 1,964 yards last season, WR Calvin Johnson is top of the class at his position, even if he somehow managed to score only five touchdowns in 2012.

Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC

Having a beast on the outside allowed QB Matthew Stafford to roll up 10,005 passing yards over the last two years, but his touchdown passes were cut drastically, from 41 in 2011 to 20 last year, but that yardage is awfully enticing, especially if Stafford could throw for 30 or more touchdowns.

The rest of the receiving options -- wide receivers Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson and TE Brandon Pettigrew -- aren't terribly special, so they only have appeal in deeper leagues. Detroit's running game ought to be better with RB Reggie Bush in the fold, as Bush has accumulated 2,660 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons, production that should make him a decent No. 2 back for most fantasy teams.

None of Detroit's defenders are productive enough to be must-haves for fantasy, but defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have the potential, while veteran MLB Stephen Tulloch consistently makes enough tackles to fill a depth role. (-Scott Cullen)

WK AGAINST DATE WK AGAINST DATE
1 vs Sun, Sep 8, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 10 @ Sun, Nov 10, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
2 @ Sun, Sep. 15, 4:05pm et/1:05pm pt 11 @ Sun, Nov 17, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
3 @ Sun, Sep. 22, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 12 vs Sun, Nov 24, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
4 vs Sun, Sep. 29, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 13 vs Thu, Nov. 28, 12:30pm et/9:30am pt
5 @ Sun, Oct. 6, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 14 @ Sun, Dec 8, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
6 @ Sun, Oct. 13, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 15 vs Mon, Dec 16, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt
7 vs Sun, Oct. 20, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 16 vs Sun, Dec 22, 4:05pm et/1:05pm pt
8 vs Sun, Oct. 27, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 17 @ Sun, Dec 29, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
9   BYE WEEK      



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