The Seattle Seahawks must play four of their first six games on the road, finally getting a break in Week 7 after traveling to face the Oakland Raiders. The reward for their week vacation? Another trip: this time going back to the site of Super Bowl XL to face the Detroit Lions.
This will be the fourth time the teams have met since 2012, with the Lions winning that first meeting 28-24 before the Seahawks won a classic Monday Night Football game in 2015, then a playoff game in January, 2017 — their most recent postseason win. How much have the Lions changed in the last year?
Detroit had a 9-7 record last season, same as Seattle, and decided that was enough to fire head coach Jim Caldwell and to replace him with Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots over the last six seasons. This was not a move necessarily based on statistical credentials though; the Patriots finished 31st on defense in 2017, per DVOA. But Patricia does have 14 years of experience of working for Bill Belichick in his pocket, so a franchise is banking on that line of thought once again.
It hasn’t worked out that much in the past, but it doesn’t mean Patricia can’t be the one who carries the torch in a way that no other Belichick disciple has. We won’t really know for at least a couple more years, probably. Patricia does have a better-than-average core of players to start with than most new head coaches.
Matthew Stafford still likely ranks as an above-average QB in the NFC (high praise given the quality of QBs in the conference) and he posted a career-high 7.9 Y/A under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, a coach who retained his position during the transition period. The Lions used their first round pick on center Frank Ragnow, improving an already-improved offensive line that includes Taylor Decker, Ricky Wagner, T.J. Lang, and Graham Glasgow; it has the potential to be one of the three best o-lines in the NFC.
Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Kenny Golladay lead the way at receiver, while LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson (second round pick) were added to the backfield, plus Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo at tight end following the trade of Eric Ebron.
The offense ranked 12th by DVOA last season but the personnel appears to be there for them to be even better. Defensively, they have a little bit longer of a ways to go.
The Lions ranked 19th on defense by DVOA under defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and he’s been replaced by Paul Pasqualoni, who last served as a DC for the Dallas Cowboys in 2010. Pasqualoni will serve as one of the oldest coaches in the league (69) and is now working for Patricia, who was an assistant for Pasqualoni at Syracuse from 2001 to 2003. Three other former Syracuse assistants are also now coaches for Patricia in Detroit.
They’ll have some really good talent to work with on defense, but they also seem to have some significant holes.
Ezekiel Ansah got the franchise tag and Darius Slay was arguably the best cornerback in the NFL last season. That’s the great news. The good news probably also includes middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, free safety Glover Quin, and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson. The bigger question marks may surround defensive end Anthony Zettel, defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, the outside linebacker positions, and the cornerback spot opposite of Slay. One of the guys competing there: former Seattle corner/safety DeShawn Shead, now well more than a year removed from a torn ACL.
There are also players with potential waiting their turn (Teez Tabor, Miles Killebrew, rookie Tracy Walker, Kerry Hyder, and rookie Da’Shawn Hand) but we might need a little more info on how training camp and preseason goes before drawing many conclusions.
Overall, I think the Lions look like a team that could be almost exactly as good as the Seahawks. That’s why it could be a bummer result for Seattle since they’re on the road, but they do get 14 days to rest and prepare.
Do you think that’s enough to beat the Lions in Week 8?
Do you expect the Seahawks to beat the Lions?
This poll is closed
Week 7: Bye