The Detroit Lions have nowhere to go but up really, so naturally ESPN put them on a list of teams most likely to improve this season.
The Detroit Lions were the last winless team in the NFL last season, starting 0-8 before ultimately being 0-10-1 at Thanksgiving. A 3-3 finish in their final six games bumped them off having the league’s worst record, with only the 3-14 Jacksonville Jaguars worse in the end.
Truly, there’s nowhere for the Lions to go but up. The roster looks a lot better, the schedule is far easier in terms of opponent strength and travel miles than it was last year. It seems certain they’ll double last year’s win total, and the widespread over/under of 6.5 wins is easy to smash the over on.
Even for those who aren’t quite buying the “Hard Knocks” buzz on the Lions, the signs of better things this season are pretty easy to see. From a win-loss standpoint, it can’t get much worse than last year.
ESPN obviously puts Detroit Lions on most likely to improve list
ESPN has become too easy of a target here lately. But when they analytically project the Lions offensive line they way they did, and they project someone who now won’t play at least the first four games of the season as the team sack leader, it becomes too easy to cast a skeptical eye at everything.
Bill Barnwell is out with a list of “NFL teams most likely to improve in 2022” (subscription required). The Lions are on the five-team list, with the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and the Jaguars.
Here’s what Barnwell wrote about the Lions, via Pride of Detroit.
I don’t think the Lions are a particularly controversial choice for this list,” Barnwell writes. “It might be fair to question what would qualify as a significant improvement for them. With the NFC getting the ninth home game this season and Detroit projected to face the league’s seventh-easiest schedule by Football Outsiders, it should have no trouble getting to five wins. It would likely take seven or more for Campbell & Co. to feel like they’re on track to compete for a postseason berth in 2023.”
Along with the aforementioned easier schedule, the Lions can’t help but have better injury fortune this season and per Barnwell they were one of the 10 youngest teams on record (back to 2007) by snap-weighted age last year. They were also 2-5-1 in one score games, lowlighted by three losses via field goals on the final play.
Barnwell did acknowledge how easy it was to put the Lions on a list of teams most likely to improve this season. So that’s a step in right direction for the writing team over at the “Worldwide Leader”, with data-backed positivity and realism.