Opinion: Detroit… What?

Michael Moses

Michael Moses

Michael Moses is the sports columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

As of late the coolest things to come out of Detroit were the Eminem Chrysler commercials. But two weeks into the NFL season, damn. The Lions are for real.

Since 1980 the Detroit Lions have had just eight winning seasons, the last coming in 2000. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999. Between the 2008 and 2009 seasons, the Lions went an embarrassing 2-30, including a winless 2008 campaign.

I get that it’s a savvy media story for everyone to eat up, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s not that big of a surprise? I expected the Lions to be good and to win. Putting up 37.5 points per game though? They’re the highest scoring offense in the NFC. Clearly it’s not the same Detroit Lions the world is used to. It all starts with the play of their quarterback and former first overall pick, Matthew Stafford.

Stafford was the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft but has yet to play a full season. Injuries have rattled his short career, but most NFL experts agree that the young quarterback is primed for greatness barring any physical setback. Stafford has played terrific thus far, throwing for 599 yards and seven touchdowns through the first two games. Before the season, many NFL analysts dubbed Stafford the breakout superstar and the Lions as the surprise team in the NFL. Terry Bradshaw went as far as to pick them to go to the Super Bowl.

Though they have been led by Stafford, Detroit’s offense has more than just quarterback play. Take Calvin Johnson for example. If you know anything about NFL football you know that for years, arguably the best wide receiver in the league has played on one of the worst teams. Johnson, another former top pick (second overall in 2007), has dealt with numerous quarterbacks during his four years in the NFL. It looks as though he has finally found his soul mate. Stafford has targeted the Pro Bowler 17 times so far, tops on the team, and four have went for touchdowns. The man they call “Megatron” is simply in beast mode when lining up in the red zone.

With a proven veteran receiver in Nate Burleson to complement Johnson and an emerging running back in Jahvid Best, the offense is creating a lot of spark in the Motor City. This is carrying over to the defensive side of the ball for a change.

Detroit’s defense is scary. And it’s not because a certain defensive tackle might bounce your quarterback off the turf like a basketball. The Lions rank seventh in the NFL in total defense (usually that number has a two in front of it).

Ndamukong Suh, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, anchors a solid front line. Suh has established himself as Pro Bowl talent right from the get-go, posting 10 sacks during his rookie season. When defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch isn’t putting quarterbacks in the turf, he’s forcing the action back inside to Suh who will have even more help in the coming weeks.

That’s right. The rich get richer (did I seriously just say that about Detroit?).

The Lions selected Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley with the thirteenth overall pick this past April. At one point Fairley was considered the top overall prospect in this year’s draft. He fractured his foot Aug. 1, which has kept him off the field since. When Fairley returns to game form ESPN First Take analyst Skip Bayless says that Detroit will have “the best defensive line in football.”

What used to be a running joke, the Lions surely have mastered the drafting of top talents with Johnson, Stafford and Suh.

They may be young, they may be in experienced, and hell, they may just be Cinderella dancing —but one thing is for certain: opponents’ wins are no longer imported from Detroit.