The Detroit Lions will be looking to prove the experts wrong in more ways than one come the 2022 season, especially those who don’t believe in them contending for the NFC North.
Amid a rebuild, it wouldn’t be a shock if the Lions are still a few years away from serious contention, even though some have seen them as a dark-horse threat to wrestle control of the division away from the Green Bay Packers this coming season.
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Heading toward the rapidly approaching 2022 season, the likelihood of each division winner from 2021 to repeat was analyzed by Bleacher Report in a piece by Alex Ballentine. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Packers were seen as the best bet in the league to win the division again this year based on their competition level in the NFC North.
Specifically, Ballentine wrote that the Minnesota Vikings may threaten Green Bay the most this season, but the Chicago Bears and Detroit are down in the pecking order enough that the Packers could be expected to survive. Ballentine conceded the Lions are on the right track, however, in terms of building for the future.
“The Lions have done some good things and the roster is in better shape than it was last season. That’s not enough to challenge for the division just yet,” he wrote within the piece.
Indeed, the Lions seem to be a few years off in most everybody’s mind. Surprises often do happen in the NFL, so folks in other cities like Detroit will be hoping for that to play out. Hoping and expecting are two vastly different emotions, though.
Lions Could Build for Future NFC North Dominance
Just because Detroit success could be deferred for a few years doesn’t mean all the news is bad. In a recent video segment for Pro Football Focus, analyst Trevor Sikkema looked at the biggest reasons for optimism for every team. When it came to the Lions, some of the reasons were almost too numerous to mention given the work the team has done recently to change their fortunes.
“They’ve done a lot of really good things I think over the last two years taking on Jared Goff’s contract when (they) knew (they) weren’t weren’t going to be great but getting the extra draft picks (and) turning it into some really, really talented players,” Sikkema said. “I love the draft that they had this past year as well with Aiden Hutchinson and Jameson Williams so I loved how they’ve navigated the draft the last two years.
Culturally, Sikkema appreciates how the Lions are turning things around in the locker room and the type of players they are bringing in. That gives him faith in the coaching staff and front office.
“You’ve got to be excited about what Brad Holmes is doing as a general manager. I am so excited for Brad, for Dan Campbell as a head coach. Man, I hope this next year certainly (is) the best yet for him,” he said. “I hope he continues to go in the right direction because it just feels like when you looked at last year, yeah, they weren’t winning a ton but the guys were playing hard for him. They were setting up the culture that they needed to and a lot of people look at culture and they just go ‘oh yeah talk about culture, okay’ but it does matter. That stuff does matter. Setting up a winning culture, a winning attitude, consistency, work ethic, process, everything. Those things show up on Sundays I promise you they do. I think they’re setting it up the right way.”
That could represent even more good news for Detroit’s football future within the division long-term.
State of Future NFC North Could Favor Lions
Detroit could have one major advantage over some of their competition in that they started their rebuild a few years early. Minnesota and Chicago both hit the reset button after the 2022 season, which means there could be some short and long-term pain yet to come for them in terms of roster building and construction. The Packers still remain at the top of the heap, but after Aaron Rodgers leaves, all bets are off as it relates to the direction the franchise will take. They’ve got some strong pieces elsewhere on offense and defense, but elite quarterback play can prove to be a major driver of team success. Minus Rodgers, the Packers could prove to be very average. By then, the Lions could be emerging from their rebuild a team ready to contend.
While Chicago and Minnesota might have different timelines as well in coming years, the Lions could be seen as a team with a trajectory firmly planted in the upward position. Across the landscape in the division, it’s not easy to see others in that same boat. In terms of 2022, that might not mean much yet. Come the future, it could be something to remember.
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