The Detroit Lions are still looking to end a dubious NFL streak of 28 consecutive years without winning a playoff game -- their last playoff win was in the 1991 NFC Divisional Round. Barring a special season, that streak appears it will continue.
Detroit has a head coach on the hot seat in Matt Patricia, who has the franchise in many directions and failing to establish a clear path. The Lions fired Jim Caldwell for going 9-7, but have failed to win more than nine games combined in the two years Patricia has been there.
There is some hope for Lions fans heading into 2020, as the team was competing for a playoff spot at 3-3-1 heading into November before Matthew Stafford -- in the midst of a MVP caliber season -- suffered a fractured tailbone in his back and was lost for the season. Detroit hasn't won a game since, ending the year on a nine-game losing streak.
With a few offseason additions -- including more former Patriots in Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton -- and a draft class that produced Jeff Okudah and D'Andre Swift, there is hope Detroit can compete in the NFC North. The Lions are projected to finish in the basement of the division again and are closer toward earning the No. 1 pick, leading to low expectations.
Will 2020 be another long season in Detroit? Here are three bold predictions for the Lions this year.
1. D'Andre Swift rushes for 1,000 yards in rookie season
The Lions were able to swipe Swift with their first pick in the second round (No. 35 overall), a selection they couldn't pass up. Swift is that talented and can change the dynamic of the Lions offense, even if teams have been leaning away from the ground game for several seasons.
Detroit was just 16th in rushing attempts last season, but that's due to the injury of Kerryon Johnson, leaving offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell scrambling to find a competent ground game with Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson. That won't be an issue with Swift and Johnson, as Swift will eventually take the No. 1 running back duties early in the season.
Once Swift receives the lion's share (no pun intended) of the carries, Detroit's offense will have a much better look. The Lions have enough pass-catching weapons in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockinson to open up the field for Swift, who should thrive -- even if Detroit has some questions on the offensive line at guard.
Sixthy-nine running backs have rushed for 1,000 yards in their rookie season and Philip Lindsay, Kareem Hunt and Jordan Howard are the only non first-round backs to accomplish the feat since 2016. Swift will have an uphill battle with a limited training camp (COVID-19) and a battle for carries, but will take off once he becomes the primary ball carrier.
Getting 1,000 yards is tough, but Swift has the talent to do it.
2. Kenny Golladay leads the league in touchdown catches -- again
For NFL fans that were unaware, Golladay led the league with 11 touchdown catches last season. Golladay was able to accomplish the feat with Jeff Driskel and David Blough throwing a football to him for the final seven games of the year.
So why can't Golladay defend his title, especially since Matthew Stafford is healthy and history states he'll play all 16 games in a season again (Stafford missed a start last season for the first time since 2010). Golladay's 11 touchdown catches were the lowest for a league leader since Wes Chandler in 1982 (and that was a strike-shortened season) and the lowest ever for a 16 game season.
Saying Golladay can repeat IS bold, even though he is one of the best deep ball receivers in the game and a perfect downfield threat for Stafford in Bevell's system (think of Sidney Rice with the Vikings). The last time the NFL had a repeat leader in touchdown catches was Terrell Owens in 2001 and 2002, so the task will be monumental for Golladay.
3. Matt Patricia doesn't last the season
Patricia's future in Detroit is bleak, as he sits with Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone as the two head coaches that are most likely not expected back after the season. Detroit isn't expected to compete for the division title nor a playoff berth, which makes it even harder for Patricia to retain his job. Is a six-win season really going to be enough to keep Patricia, who is just 9-22-1 in two seasons, around? Doubt it.
If the Lions are mired in last place in early December, odds are they cut ties with Patricia and get a head start in finding their next head coach -- see Washington Football Team with Ron Rivera. Detroit, unfortunately, has a better chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick than winning the division.
The Lions do have talent, enough which a .500 season and an outside shot at a playoff berth is very feasible. Unfortunately, Patricia has done nothing to make that convincing -- especially with his reputation with former players. Good chance he doesn't last the year.