Here’s how many games the Detroit Lions will win, and who’ll win Super Bowl 56

Detroit Free Press

Welcome to the 2021 NFL season, complete with a 17th regular-season game!

Normally, this is the section where we go over how anything can happen — after all, who expected Michigan’s Tom Brady to win his seventh Super Bowl ring last season? — but, well, the Detroit Lions aren’t exactly generating a lot of optimism, at least outside of Jared Goff’s head.

Still, there’s a season to be played, a high draft pick (or two) to be earned and so we asked four Free Press sports writers to break down how they think the Lions’ season will go, as well as the team leaders, the playoff field and, of course, the champions of Super Bowl 56, set for Los Angeles in February. (Hint: It’s a good year to be a Kansas City fan.)

GAME-BY-GAME PICKS: Wins hard to find on difficult schedule

THE OFFENSE: Jared Goff has 17 games to prove he’s not just a bridge QB

THE DEFENSE: Why NFL’s worst in 2020 will be better this fall

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Dave Birkett: 5-12

The reason: The Lions have a difficult early season schedule and a few obvious holes on both sides of the ball, along with the lack of depth that comes with being in the beginning stages of a rebuild. But my expectations are low this year, and the Lions’ margin for error is razor-thin.

Lions’ MVP: T.J. Hockenson.

Lions’ leading rusher: D’Andre Swift.

Lions’ leading receiver: T.J. Hockenson.

Jared Goff TD/INTs: 22/12.

Where Lions’ offense will rank: 27th.

Where Lions’ defense will rank: 16th.

NFC division winners: Packers, Bucs, 49ers, Cowboys.

NFC wild-card teams: Rams, Seahawks, Washington.

NFC title game: Packers over 49ers.

AFC division winners: Bills, Ravens, Chiefs, Titans.

AFC wild-card teams: Chargers, Browns, Patriots.

AFC title game: Chiefs over Browns.

Super Bowl: Chiefs over Packers.

Carlos Monarrez: 6-11

The reason: The defense is a big question mark as it transitions to a 3-4 scheme without any major upgrades. A thin receiving corps means the offense will run through Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift, who had 878 yards from scrimmage with 10 touchdowns.

Lions’ MVP: D’Andre Swift.

Lions’ leading rusher: Swift.

Lions’ leading receiver: Hockenson

Jared Goff TD/INTs: 19/12.

Where Lions’ offense will rank: 24th.

Where Lions’ defense will rank: 27th.

NFC division winners: Washington, Packers, Buccaneers, 49ers.

NFC wild-card teams: Rams, Seahawks, Saints.

NFC title game: Packers over Bucs.

AFC division winners: Bills, Ravens, Titans, Chiefs.

AFC wild-card teams: Chargers, Steelers, Patriots.

AFC title game: Bills over Chiefs.

Super Bowl: Bills over Packers.

CARLOS: I owe Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell an apology

Jeff Seidel: 4-13

The reason: This is a team in transition. Granted, getting rid of Matt Patricia is addition by subtraction, especially defensively. But the offense is going to be bad. It will take time for the offensive line to jell and Goff has few weapons other than throwing to his tight end or dumping the ball to his backs.

Lions’ MVP:  T.J. Hockenson.

Lions’ leading rusher: D’Andre Swift.

Lions’ leading receiver:  T.J. Hockenson.

Jared Goff TD/INTs: 17/16.

Where Lions’ offense will rank: 31st.

Where Lions’ defense will rank: 31st.

NFC division winners: Washington, Packers, Buccaneers, Rams.

NFC wild-card teams: Seahawks, Saints, Cowboys.

NFC title game: Bucs over Packers.

AFC division winners: Bills, Steelers, Titans, Chiefs.

AFC wild-card teams: Patriots, Browns, Chargers.

AFC title game: Chiefs over Bills.

Super Bowl: Chiefs over Bucs.

SEIDEL: Lions are gonna lose a ton, but here are 10 ways they can still have a great season

Shawn Windsor: 5-12

The reason: Let’s say it together: This is a rebuild, and that’s just fine. The defense is young and thin. The offensive skill is, too, though T.J. Hockenson will be one of the best tight ends in the NFL. If Jared Goff settles in and the receivers can make a few downfield plays, maybe the Lions win another game or two.

Lions’ MVP: T.J. Hockenson.

Lions’ leading rusher: D’Andre Swift.

Lions’ leading receiver: Hockenson.

Jared Goff TD/INTs: 17/13.

Where Lions’ offense will rank: 24th

Where Lions’ defense will rank: 25th

NFC division winners: Cowboys, Packers, Buccaneers, 49ers.

NFC wild-card teams: Rams, Seahawks, Saints

NFC title game: Bucs over Rams

AFC division winners: Bills, Browns, Titans, Chiefs.

AFC wild-card teams: Ravens, Steelers, Colts.

AFC title game: Chiefs over Browns.

Super Bowl: Chiefs over Bucs.

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