The Detroit Lions haven’t had a great season, but that was somewhat by design. With a new general manager, a new head coach, a new quarterback, and turnover at a host of other positions, the team is in year one of a complete rebuild.
The process hasn’t begun to bear much fruit, but if you squint you can see the signs that things are turning around a bit. Matt LaFleur spoke well of the Lions’ effort this week, and head coach Dan Campbell has seemingly instilled a good deal of his hard-charging nature in his team.
And even if Week 18 doesn’t move the needle in the standings, we still might get a good glimpse of what the Packers could be facing in years to come. For insight into what that could look like, we asked Mike Payton of Pride of Detroit to share his thoughts.
Acme Packing Company: Year one of the Dan Campbell experience is all but in the books. What’s your assessment of his first year on the job?
Mike Payton: I know Packers fans might think I’m crazy for saying it, but it’s been quite a successful year for Dan Campbell and company. Yeah, they only won two games, but so much more has happened that warrants optimism. The Lions have fully bought into the culture and they even formed an identity as the team that refuses to give up and won’t stop fighting. Even last week when they allowed 51 points, there was a fight in this team that I’ve never seen before. Matt Patricia and company would have set up hammocks on the sideline and took naps until the game was over. This team kept fighting until the point where you were yelling at them to quit like they were Apollo Creed fighting Ivan Drago and you were their manager.
On top of that, the Lions have developed their young players very well and have also rehabilitated some players that looked like they were done last season. There’s a lot to like about how this season went.
APC: How do you feel about where the Lions are positioned heading into the offseason? What will they prioritize to continue their rebuild?
MP: The Lions need to focus on a few different things going into the rebuild. They could use some help at receiver, pass rusher, linebacker, and in the secondary. There’s a bit of confidence in Brad Holmes at the moment due to the way he drafted last April. The concern is that the Lions didn’t have a very good free agency last year. I’m not sure if that’s because nobody wanted to come here after the Patricia and Quinn debacle tore this team apart, or if Holmes and company aren’t very good at recruiting talent to sign with the team. That’s a question we’ll get answered soon enough.
Overall, the feeling right now is if the Lions can hit a home run in free agency and the draft, maybe they can squeak into the wild card next season. But that’s a big if right now. Luckily for the Lions, they’ll have the money and the draft picks to at least try to hit a home run. Here’s hoping they don’t whiff.
APC: The Lions are currently projected to pick second overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. If you were in charge of the pick, who’d be your selection?
MP: Right now I think you have to go with one of the two current favorites. Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson. Either player feels like a can’t miss prospect at this point. The Lions are almost guaranteed to have the second pick unless the Jaguars somehow beat the Colts and the Lions lose to the Packers. They should have a shot at either one of these guys. Maybe both considering the Jaguars are a trainwreck and might take whoever gets super popular throughout the buildup to the draft. This is the team that took Blake Bortles with the third pick after all.
APC: It’s also the end of your first year with Jamaal Williams. How has he performed this year, both on and off the field?
MP: Detroit is in love with this guy. He’s hilarious and anytime he hits the podium. you know you’re in for an entertaining presser. On the field, Williams has been better than I thought he would be when he signed with the Lions. Despite some injuries and illnesses, Williams has been a fine RB2 for the Lions. Although with the rise of Craig Reynolds, I do wonder if Williams plays in Detroit past 2022. I suppose we’ll see if he has a big year next year. I hope he does. He’s been a joy to have around.
APC: What’s your prediction for Sunday?
MP: Right now I think the Lions squeak out a close win. That prediction is strictly based off the idea that the Packers rest their starters for the playoffs. Although, that doesn’t seem like something teams really do anymore. Then there’s the thought that even if the Packers do play their starters, there’s nothing for this team to try hard for. The Packers have achieved their regular season dreams. I think the Lions win 20-17. But, I can also see a total blowout win for the Packers that sees Jordan Love coming in for the second half because the Packers are up so much.
The Packers are favored over the Lions, per our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook. You can check out the line for all of this week’s games here.