A back injury cut short what had the makings of a strong season for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and ultimately sunk the Detroit Lions’ season, too.
Stafford played in just eight games last season, spending the last half of the season on injured reserve because of broken bones in his upper back. The injury snapped a streak of 136 consecutive starts — sixth most by a quarterback in NFL history.
The Lions, behind backups Jeff Driskel and David Blough, dropped all eight of the games Stafford missed, finishing the season at 3-12-1.
Stafford, though, is healthy heading into 2020 — despite a scare from false-positive COVID-19 test — and is a candidate to be one of the NFL’s top comeback stories this season. He ranks fourth on CBS Sports’ list of NFL Comeback Player of the Year candidates, which includes odds from the William Hill Sportsbook.
Stafford ranks behind fellow quarterbacks Alex Smith (Washington), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh), and Cam Newton (New England) in CBS Sports’ rankings. Stafford’s odds sit at +1000, according to the sportsbook.
“(Stafford) is being slept on heading into 2020,” writes Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports. “Prior to going down with a season-ending back injury last year, the Lions quarterback was playing himself into MVP conversations. In eight games played, he averaged 312.4 passing yards per game (second-best in the NFL), 8.6 yards per attempt (second-best in the NFL), and his 106.0 passer rating that was just outside the top-five in the league. Stafford was also ranked fourth in DVOA, according to Football Outsider, only behind Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson, and Patrick Mahomes. Now that he’s healthy, he has to chance to pick up right where he left off.”
Stafford was on pace to throw for 4,998 yards, 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also posted the best quarterback rating, yards per attempt and yards per completion of his career. Sullivan notes he’ll be surrounded by a strong supporting cast that includes receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.
“Detroit also drafted running back D’Andre Swift to strengthen its ground game,” Sullivan writes. “If 2019 first-round pick T.J. Hockenson can take a jump in his second season, it’s enough weapons for Stafford to put up numbers. Factoring in at +1000 is also tremendous value here.”