It is too early to give up on the Lions, and too soon to rush to bury their playoff hopes. Three games aren’t enough to make a final judgment on any team.
It isn’t too soon to reassess them, though. The perspective on where they stand might be different if they had escaped with a victory – or even a tie – instead of leaving Nashville with a 44-41 overtime loss on Sunday.
The Lions’ 1-2 record that has them in last place in the NFC North isn’t a fluke. Save for
This week’s Monday Countdown focuses on the Lions’ problems, and whether the prognosticators who picked them to have a winning record this season were over-sold on their potential.
There’s also a look at the schedule – which opponents might be tougher than originally expected, and which games remain winnable – the baffling inconsistency of tight end
There’s also the best and worst of the NFL after three weeks.
We start with the reassessment – of the Lions and their remaining opponents:
1. Prediction reduction: My prediction last season of a 10-6 record proved to be dead-on. I thought the Lions would be better this year and bumped them up to 11-5.
That prediction was made based on the Lions beating the Titans in Game 3. Logically, their won-lost record has to be downgraded to 10-6, based on losing a game they were projected to win.
But the issue is whether I really think now that the Lions are playing like a team that will go 10-6?
Not now, I don’t.
2. Problems, problems: Their weakness has proven to be their weakness. They have trouble stopping the pass. The secondary was a rebuilding project going into the season, and injuries made that job even more difficult.
The pass rush was supposed to be the leveling force, but that hasn’t happened. They had seven sacks in the first two games but never got to Jake Locker on 42 drop-backs Sunday.
The Packers’ Clay Matthews has six sacks going into the Monday night game at Seattle. As a team, the Lions have one more sack than Matthews has on his own.
The Lions have put a lot of resources – money and draft picks – in their front four. It should pay dividends - sometime. It has to protect the secondary with a strong rush.
Overall – offense, defense and special teams coverage - the Lions haven’t been sharp consistently at any time this year, including the exhibition season.
Coach Jim Schwartz faces the toughest and most telling chore in his four seasons as head coach. He has to get his team on track and focused if the Lions are going to make a serious playoff run.
3. Brandon Pettigrew: His raw numbers look good enough - 16 catches and a touchdown - but he should be better.
He dropped a touchdown pass in the opening game. On Sunday, he dropped a pass on the first play of the game. Later, he had a holding penalty and had a ball swiped out of his hands after a reception and returned for a touchdown.
The lapses are baffling.
4. Stafford: He looked gimpy a few times before finally leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a muscle pull.
Last year, Stafford showed he can win games for a full season.
5. Opponents: The last 13 games start with the Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field.
The Vikings were 3-13 last season and lost twice to the Lions. They are in a serious rebuilding program, one that made they look ripe to be beaten twice again this year by the Lions.
But maybe not. The Vikings are 2-1. Their first two games were against two of the league’s worst teams.
They got an overtime win at home over Jacksonville and a 23-20 loss at Indianapolis the next week.
Sunday’s 24-13 win at home over the powerful 49ers gives the Vikings instant credibility.
Second-year QB Christian Ponder has four TD passes without an interception, a 70.1-percent completion rate and a passer rating of 104.9. Clearly, he’s better than Jake Locker, who shredded the Lions Sunday.
And Adrian Peterson is running hard for the Vikings in his recovery from a knee injury late last season.
What looked like a two-game sweep for the Lions now looks like two games that are a toss-up – first at Ford Field on Sunday, and Nov. 11 in Minneapolis.
6. Eagles (2-1): They opened the season with one-point wins over the Browns and Ravens but were dominated by the Cardinals in a 27-6 loss on Sunday.
The Eagles are the least impressive of the 11 teams that are 2-1. However, they have something that bothers the Lions – overall team speed on offense. The Lions are at Philly on Oct. 14, after their bye week.
7. The Bears (2-1): They’ve had winnable games against the Colts and Rams and won both handily. The only life from their offense in a 23-10 loss at Green Bay came from quarterback Jay Cutler shoving J’Marcus Webb.
The Bears hammered the Rams, 23-6, on Sunday. They sacked Sam Bradford seven times. The Lions beat the same Rams team with a TD with 10 seconds left in the opening game.
The Lions play the Bears on a Monday night Oct. 22 in Chicago and in the final game of the season at Ford Field on Dec. 30. No one could predict a sweep.
8. Seahawks (1-1), Jaguars (1-2) and Colts (1-2): The Seahawks have a strong defense and not much of a passing game. The Jags snuck out a 22-17 win at Indy on Sunday thanks to a 59-yard TD run by Maurice Jones-Drew and an 80-yard TD pass with 45 seconds left. The Colts’ win was at home over the Vikings.
Count all three as wins for the Lions.
9. Packers (1-1): Expected to be tough, and they will be. The Lions never matched up well with Brett Favre and his receivers, and it’s been the same with Aaron Rodgers and his crew.
10. Texans (3-0), Cardinals (3-0), Falcons (3-0): The Lions get the Texans at home on Thanksgiving Day, play the Cardinals on the road, and play the Falcons on Dec. 22 at Ford Field with ESPN’s Monday Night TV crew in town.
My original pick was for the Lions to find a way to beat all three. After three games, they are three of the most impressive teams in the league, while the Lions rank as a disappointment.
In an election year, put me down for undecided – and serve waffles as a pre-game meal.
11. The NFL’s top dozen after three weeks:
1. Texans (3-0): They look, and play, like the best in the AFC.
2. Falcons (3-0): It’s a long way till January, and the real test for the Falcons.
3. Cardinals (3-0): They’ve had three quality wins.
4. Ravens (2-1): Beating the Patriots Sunday night was a step up.
5. 49ers (2-1): They took at tumble against the Vikings but still might be the NFC’s best.
6. Packers (1-1): They still might end up as the class of the NFC.
7. Chargers (2-1): A wipeout loss to the Falcons at home stung them.
8. Jets (2-1): A 20-point win in Week 1 rates them ahead of the Bills.
9. Bills (2-1): The injury to C.J. Spiller hurts their offense.
10. Cowboys (2-1): Winning the opener gives them an edge on the Giants.
11. Giants (2-1): Losing to the Cowboys puts them one spot behind.
12. Vikings (2-1): Beating the 49ers was a quality win.
12 The NFL’s worst:
5. Jaguars (1-2): They could lose four more before they play the Lions.
4. Colts (1-2): Building, slowly.
3. Carolina (1-2): Not competitive in a loss to the Giants.
2. Browns (0-3): No time to heal. They play the Ravens Thursday night.
1. Saints (0-3): Too much big talk. Maybe they should have a pool for wins.