“Same Old Lions” is a thing of the past. Here’s why the Detroit Lions can take a leap forward in the NFL this season.
The Detroit Lions are one of the hottest stories going into the 2023 NFL season.
And it’s not the first time. Just a year ago , the Lions were the subject of HBO’s Hard Knocks and received plenty of preseason hype as a team on the rise.
It took a while, but the Lions paid off those predictions. After a 1-6 start, Detroit won eight of their next 10 games to finish 9-8 (up from 3-13-1 in the 2021 season) and almost snuck into the NFC playoffs.
This year almost isn’t good enough. But the blue and silver aren’t fazed. Here’s why the Detroit Lions are ready to make noise in the NFC North – and beyond – in 2023.
Lions Quarterback Jared Goff
By the time Goff was 24, he’d been the top overall pick in the NFL Draft for the Los Angeles Rams (2016). He also became only the sixth QB to start a Super Bowl before his 25th birthday. Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts have since joined the list, which also includes Tom Brady, Dan Marino, and Ben Roethlisberger.
Goff’s final two season in L.A. disappointed, however. He was then swapped to Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford before the 2021 season.
Last year, however, Goff approached his career highs in yardage, TD passes and completion percentage. He also set a new standard for accuracy by throwing interceptions on only 1.2% of his passes (seven in total).
Goff went the final nine games without throwing a pick, firing 15 TD passes as the Lions finished the season 8-2 over the final 10 contests. He’s equal parts prolific passer (five games with over 300 yards passing and at least 3 TD passes) and game manager (Detroit was 3-0 when Goff threw for less than 220 yards last season).
Best of all, Goff will be looking for a long-term extension after this year. He’s plenty motivated and has one of the best play callers in the league on his sideline.
Lions Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson
Johnson surprised some when he returned to Detroit for another season despite entertaining head coaching interviews in the offseason.
Detroit’s 37-year-old offensive coordinator turned heads last season – his first calling the plays – and figures to take another leap in 2023.
“I’m hoping to be more efficient,” Johnson told ESPN. “Last year, it took me time to sift through all the information so hopefully that’ll accelerate.”
If so, it should be a big year for Goff and Johnson, because…
Detroit’s Offense is Loaded
If it wasn’t for the top-rated Philadelphia Eagles’ unit, it seems most experts would have the Lions’ offensive line ranked No. 1 in the entire NFL.
Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell make a durable, consistent pair of tackles. Combined, they allowed only a half-dozen sacks last year in over 2,000 snaps. Halapoulivaati Vaitai returns from injury at one guard spot, with Jonah Jackson on the other side. In the middle is former first-round pick Frank Ragnow. Graham Glasgow comes back home to Michigan to add depth.
We know they can pass protect, but what about run blocking? The Detroits Lions’ line should get plenty of practice with the duo of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs.
Montgomery comes in from the division rival Bears to supplant Jamaal Williams, who led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Montgomery is one of the NFL’s best runners in terms of yards after contact, so a line that can get him to the second level of tacklers could unlock another level of performance.
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Gibbs, one of the league’s most electrifying rookies, didn’t even wait for his first preseason game before starting to turn heads in scrimmages with the New York Giants. He serves as the proverbial ‘lightning’ to Montgomery’s thunder. He will challenge defense as a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is fast becoming one of the league’s most reliable receivers with 90+ catches in each of his first two years, and while Jameson Williams has been anything but reliable so far, he’s teeming with potential as a deep threat.
And that’s just one side of the ball…
The Lions’ Improving Defense
Want a reason for the slow start to 2022? Look no further.
Detroit Lions finished dead last in the league in yards allowed per game. Their 25.1 points allowed per game was 29th in the NFL.
So general manager Brad Holmes reshaped his secondary, bringing in corners Cameron Sutton (Steelers) and Emmanuel Moseley (49ers) plus safety CJ Gardner-Johnson (Eagles).
He spent his second 1st-round pick on linebacker Jack Campbell. He also found a steal in Alabama safety Brian Branch in round two.
Aidan Hutchinson led the team with 9.5 sacks, finishing second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, and is joined by fellow second-year stalwarts Malcolm Rodriguez and Kerby Joseph. The selection of Campbell leaves Rodriguez in particular with something to prove in 2023.
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Detroit Lions Odds for 2023
So where do the oddsmakers place the Detroit Lions for 2023? Take a look at these numbers from FanDuel:
Detroit Lions Odds
|Over 9.5 Regular Season Wins||-120|
|To Make the NFL Playoffs||-170|
|To Win the NFC North||+145|
|To Win the NFC||+800|
|To Win Super Bowl||+2100|
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Our Picks for the Detroit Lions in 2023
The Lions are such a hot pick that some of the value is gone from the futures bets listed above. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a few plays on the Motor City for this year.
The schedule looks favorable… which sounds strange for a team that starts the season on the road against the Super Bowl champions. But it’s a great spot for a team with high expectations, playing as underdogs in a game no one expects them to win. In fact, I’ll go ahead and recommend Detroit +7 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs on Opening Night if you can find that number.
Bigger picture… +145 to win the North is a short number, but -120 to win more than 9.5 games is appealing.
Five of Detroit’s six division games come in the second half of the season, as do road trips to New Orleans and Dallas. These figure to be pivotal contests in terms of playoff positioning, and the rookies will be well integrated into the offense by then – with Williams back from his six-game suspension.
Last season, nine wins was enough for the last playoff spot in the NFC. However, Detroit lost the tiebreaker to Seattle. Assuming a similar landscape this year, 10 wins would get Detroit to the postseason, so let’s take the better price (-120) for over 9.5 wins than the odds to make the playoffs (-170).
My favorite Detroit bet is explained in more detail here, but Jahmyr Gibbs’ odds for Offensive Rookie of the Year are down to +900. Word is out about the young running back – so act quickly!
Detroit Lions Over 9.5 Regular Season Wins (-120)
Jahmyr Gibbs Offensive Rookie of the Year (+900)