After their wild and wacky win against the Cowboys, the Detroit Lions have a bye this week. Additionally, they have played exactly eight games thus far, marking the halfway point of their season. The Lions are 5-3, and with an easy schedule on the docket, the playoffs seem like a real possibility. How have they gotten to this point? I shall take a look at how Detroit is looking midway through their season, starting with a look at their offense.
Matthew Stafford is having a strong season thus far. There were some qualms to be had last year, some issues, some bizarre throwing angles. This year has been better to be sure. Stafford is completing 62.4% of his passes, which is fine, for 2,617 yards. He is averaging 7.7 yards per attempt and 317.9 yards per game. He’s busy as usual, but he’s also more efficient. Stafford has 16 touchdowns to six interceptions, and at least one of those picks wasn’t his fault. Of course, there have probably been a couple of dropped picks along the way, so let’s all pretend it just balances out.
Stafford has also rushed for two touchdowns, for what that’s worth. You may remember one of them. Stafford has already earned his first overall pick status from all those years ago. I don’t know where he ranks among NFL quaarterbacks. Probably at the back end of the top 10, I would imagine. If he keeps playing like this, Detroit’s pass offense should be fine.
I was not terribly enthused by the Reggie Bush signing, not because I didn’t believe in his skill, but because I didn’t think it was a good use of resources. However, he has exceeded my expectations, and he has been a big part of this offense with his elusiveness and explosive play ability. Running the ball, he has 119 attempts for 518 yards. That’s 4.4 yards per carry, which is acceptable. He has had some tackles for loss that were his fault, but he also has three runs of over 20 yards. Bush has also rushed for two touchdowns.
Joique Bell, who I am a big fan of, is doing well as Bush’s backup. He is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry, but he has four rushing touchdowns. Mikel Leshoure has barely played. He was a second-round pick. Bell was an undrafted free agent. Running backs are fungible in this league, and this is one example of why you don’t draft one highly unless you are taking a top of the line talent.
As for the receivers, Calvin Johnson remains the best in the league. That Dallas game boosted his numbers, but he also missed a game and was more or less a decoy in another, so that also needs to be kept in mind. Still, he has 47 receptions for 821 yards and seven touchdowns. That is amazing. However, the receivers have not been good behind him. Both Bush and Bell have been key pieces of the passing game. Bush has 31 catches for 335 yards and two scores. Bell has 27 receptions for 296 yards.
Granted, Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles have dealt with injuries, but this is still not a great receiving corps. It’s Johnson and the running backs. Brandon Pettigrew has struggled. Kris Durham has been decent, actually. On the other hand, Joseph Fauria has eight catches, but five of them have been touchdowns. So that’s fun.
The Lions are second in passing yards per game and 20th in rushing yards per game. As per Football Outsiders’ numbers, the Lions are eighth in offense. They rank seventh in passing and 14th in rushing. That seems about right. Detroit’s offense line ranks 20th in their run blocking metrics, and second in pass blocking. For the turnover on that line, and the injuries, that’s impressive.
Clearly, the Lions’ offense has been very good thus far. Stafford has been impressive. Johnson is great. Bush and Bell are a dynamic duo. Soon, Burleson will be back. Hopefully the offensive line gets healthier. I like this team on this side of the ball. It definitely feels playoff caliber.