Week 17. Game 256. Sunday Night Football. The winner will be crowned the champion of the NFC North. Rodgers v Stafford. Packers v Lions. Two of the most historic franchises in the NFL for very different reasons. The Packers came away with a win that day, and based off of what I have predicted in the past, this scenario may happen again, because the Packers and Lions are set to square off for the second year in a row at Ford Field during the last week of the 2017 NFL regular season.
On paper, the Lions look as good as they ever have. With quarterback Matthew Stafford in his prime, an improved offensive line, and a defense that has not received much attention, but will be very good when the season comes around. This Lions team may be the best the NFL has seen from Detroit in years, maybe since the days of Barry Sanders and Herman Moore in the 90’s. With that, the Lions have to keep their head in the game if they want to be successful. If they want to win the division, they are going to have to beat Green Bay twice, not let personal demons get to them, and they absolutely cannot remember what has happened in years past, most notably, their late season collapses, especially those in 2013 and 2014.
The Lions were blessed with many great defensive options to choose from in this year’s draft. With this draft very deep in offensive talent this year, the Lions had a couple great options to choose from with the 21st overall pick, something that does not happen often. With the 21st overall pick, the Lions eventually took Jarrad Davis, a linebacker from the University of Florida. The addition of Davis will be great for a team that released a long time starter in Deandre Levy. Davis should be able to fill Levy’s role nicely.
As for the season ahead for Detroit, they open up against an up and down Arizona Cardinals team. After that, their next four out of seven games are against teams who made the playoffs last season. The other three are teams who have been on the cusp of the playoffs for several years, the Vikings, Panthers, and Saints. If they can get through the early part of the season, it could be a very promising year for Detroit, as their second half of the year looks fairly easy on paper. If the Lions come away from the first half of the year with four or five wins, they will be able to contend late in the year, most likely coming away with anywhere between nine and eleven wins.
Much like year’s past, the Lions will contend for the NFC North throughout the whole season. They are capable of beating very good teams with their improvements on a weak offensive line, a defense that looks like it can cause damage, and being able to retain most of their players who contributed in years past. All in all, the NFC North is shaping up to come down to Week 17 once again, unless either Green Bay or Detroit absolutely dominate the season and run away with the division.