The Detroit Lions hold 40/1 odds on winning the NFC Championship. And since we’re living in strange times, strange things can happen. So, betting on the only team in the NFC that’s yet to win an NFC Championship isn’t out of the question.
Sure, the Detroit Lions are 0 for 54 during the Super Bowl era. And they’re the team in the NFL with the most seasons without a conference championship.
Yet, every team in the NFL has a shot to win it on any given season. The defensive improvements and adaptation to the New England Patriots culture are already a big help to the Lions.
Having Matthew Stafford back in full health is another huge plus, as is taking pressure off him and his backside with a beefed-up rushing attack.
Is it enough to capture the elusive NFC Championship? Here are the four factors explained further for you high-stakes bettors out there. These are four reasons why the Detroit Lions might just sneak away with the championship.
1 – The Dynamic on Defense
Head coach Matt Patricia struck gold last season when he hired Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator, and he hopes to strike again with the hiring of Cory Undlin on the defensive side. While this is still Patricia’s defense, it’s clear his defense continues to be the team’s weak link, ranking 31st in 2019.
To get to the promised land (and to keep his job), Patricia realized he had to inject new ideas into his defense. Enter Undlin, who gets to work with guys like Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, Jarrad Davis, Jeff Okudah, and Desmond Trufant, just to name a few.
Four of those five players weren’t Detroit Lions in 2019.
Let’s break down how they might just turn around one of the worst defenses in recent memory.
Collins and Shelton both know the Patriot Way, and they each played on New England’s #1 ranked defense in 2019. They know the system Patricia runs, and they are two players who bought into the system that won Super Bowls.
Together, they bring more New England flavor to the Motor City.
Then, you got the corners Okudah and Trufant. Honestly, you couldn’t ask for a better duo. Trufant is an eight-year veteran who logged 4 interceptions in nine games in 2019. While he’s prone to injury, he also proved he still has a nose for the ball.
Enter Jeff Okudah, the best corner in college football in 2019. Okudah is a starter from day one, and he figures to be a shutdown corner early in his career. In college, he never allowed over 50 yards in a single game.
The pieces are in place for Undlin’s ideas to thrive under Patricia’s leadership. While Patricia’s defenses were weak since his arrival in 2018, bringing in Undlin to better use the talent and inject fresh ideas will kickstart this defense.
Given the fact the Lions play in a division that features average to below-average offenses, it may allow their defense to match up well with the likes of the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and the Minnesota Vikings. This makes them a divisional and playoff dark horse.
Furthermore, the Lions face more than a few aerial assaults in 2020. Having such strength at the corners and in the defensive backfield will make up for the team’s meager pass rush.
With so many improvements to the roster, along with Cory Undlin’s input, look for a much-improved defense in 2020 and one that will hang with some of the league’s better passing attacks.
2 – The Staff of Matthew
Matthew Stafford will need a staff to lean on if he suffers another back injury at his age. But until that time comes, Stafford gives the Lions the best chance to win. The team was 3-4-1 when he went down with his injury and went 0-8 the rest of the way.
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Every game but one of the team’s first eight games that Stafford played in ended in one-possession games. The exception came in Week 6 when the Lions lost to the Vikings 42-30.
And even without Stafford, the next fur also ended up within a single possession.
Simply put, if Matthew Stafford is healthy and in uniform, the Lions can win pretty much every football game they play in. This is a team that came within 4 points of beating the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. They lost both games to the Green Bay Packers by a combined 4 points.
They lost to the Chicago Bears by a combined 11 points, and in both games, they played backup quarterbacks. With that said, this is a good team who ended 2019 with a poor record.
One major reason is because they lost Stafford for the season. Another reason was their poor defense. Well, now that the defense has a few incoming starters who know the system, and with Stafford is back in action, look for a Lions team who will pull out those close games.
A better defense plus Stafford means the team finishes better than 3-8-1 in one possession games.
They’ll probably play teams like the Vikings a lot better. Minnesota beat them by 13 points in their second meeting with David Blough starting at quarterback.
Look for at least a .500 record in one-possession games, if not something higher.
Furthermore, many pieces from 2019 return to Stafford’s offense. One player being Kenny Golladay, who was also having a career year before Stafford went down. Another is Marvin Jones, who snagged 9 touchdown passes in 2019.
And don’t forget the 12-year veteran Danny Amendola, who remains one of the better possession receivers in football.
Look for tight end T.J. Hockenson to make a leap in 2020. Hockenson had a monster debut in Week 1, catching 6 passes for 131 yards before he battled injuries. This, combined with a better rushing attack, gives Stafford perhaps his most talented offense in years.
Couple it with a revamped defense from players who bought into the culture, and it shouldn’t surprise you if the Lions outplay their expectations.
Hey, it’s in the cards.
3 – Beefed-Up Rushing Attack
The Lions struggled in the running game in 2019, with Kerryon Johnson, Ty Johnson, or Bo Scarbrough seizing the opportunity to become the featured back. However, none of them were exactly bad and each figure to play a role in the offense here in 2020.
Scarbrough is the power back teams look for, and he showed his strength, rushing for 301 yards in the first four games of the season. This ranks second in Detroit Lions history, as we should all know who owns that record.
And to be mentioned in the same breath as the record holder is impressive for a former seventh-round pick.
Ty Johnson has home-run potential. He figures to be the fourth back on the roster if the Lions carry four backs while Kerryon Johnson is a solid complementary back.
Then, you got second-round draft pick DeAndre Swift, a thickly built back who averaged 6.6 yards per carry at Georgia. He’s one who will remind you of Barry Sanders with his 5’8”, 212-lb. frame. Yet he can run between the tackles or take it outside.
What should impress you about these backs is how much it should remind you of what Patricia’s former boss does in New England. Such a system may take place over in Detroit, and Patricia is foolish if he were to ignore it.
The beauty here is the fact that Stafford won’t have to risk his back health every time he steps onto the field. In 2019, he averaged 37 passes per game, one of the most in the NFL.
Here in 2020, look for that number to drop, as the Lions will run the ball more often with the backs figuring to rotate based on their opponents’ weaknesses. For example, if teams struggle against complete backs, then Swift will see the bulk of the carries.
If they can’t handle power backs, look for Scarbrough to take the rock. Defenses that allow huge chunks of yards? Look for Ty Johnson to get involved if they keep him on the roster.
This also opens the playbook for coordinator Darrell Bevell. He won’t have to rely on Stafford to keep the team in games with a further proficient rushing attack. It will also allow the Lions to melt the clock in a more efficient manner when they attain leads late in games.
4 – The Patriots Culture
After two long seasons where Matt Patricia accomplished a 9-22-1 record, the Patriots flavor is finally in Detroit. Gone are the players who didn’t buy into the championship winning culture as Patricia made over the roster (mainly the defense) and brought in his own.
Danny Shelton, Trey Flowers, Frank Herron, Jamie Collins, Christian Sam, Duron Harmon, and Darryl Roberts either played for Patricia in New England or have experience in the same system.
And this doesn’t count the players drafted since Patricia took over in 2018, which includes about half the projected roster.
It’s a system Bill Belichick implemented and has won six Super Bowls with, while making nine total appearances in the big game. And it’s one where nearly every player listed above owns a Super Bowl ring in a system Patricia brought over to Detroit.
Given the fact at least 60% of the roster (if not more) should buy into the system, look for a different Lions team in 2020 than what we grew accustomed to since 2018. It’s different from the divided locker room two seasons ago when Patricia introduced the system.
The division is gone in 2020, and the Lions may see their defense as a strength, allowing Patricia’s defensive wizardry that he displayed in New England to carry over to Detroit.
The Lions figure to be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2020, yet the possibility remains that the team may be able to win the NFC despite long odds.
Having a legit defensive coordinator and players to match the system is a gigantic step in the right direction. And it’s one the Lions didn’t have when Patricia took over in 2018. Ditto for buying into the culture Patricia brought from New England.
Matthew Stafford returning will bring the offense back to the level it was before he went down with the injury. It may even be better in 2020, given the strong running back committee the team now has in Bo Scarbrough, D’Andre Swift, Kerryon Johnson, and perhaps Ty Johnson.
Do you think the Detroit Lions are worth a bet for an NFC Championship?
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …