The Detroit Lions were hopeful that year two under long-time Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia would thrust them into contention in the competitive NFC North for the 2019 season. However, after a 3-12-1 season, the Lions enter the 2020 NFL offseason needing to make some pretty major changes.
The Lions were better offensively from 2018 to 2019, going from 25th in scoring and 24th in total offense to 18th in scoring and 17th in total offense. However, the defense took a major step back as they dropped from 10th in the NFL in total defense to 31st.
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So Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn have taken some pretty drastic steps to overhaul their roster. They traded away Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to the Eagles and then replaced him with former Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant. They also let Devon Kennard walk in free agency and signed former Patriots and Browns outside linebacker Jamie Collins as his replacement.
They also added some depth at defensive tackle by signing former Patriots nose tackle Danny Shelton and former Bears defensive tackle Nick Williams. On the offensive side of the ball, Graham Glasgow left for the Broncos but the Lions countered by signing offensive guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai away from the Eagles. And the Lions still have an estimated $30.8 million in salary cap space to address remaining issues on both sides of the ball.
Inevitably, the loss of Slay is glaring but given statements that he's made about how he had lost respect for Patricia, the Lions probably had no choice but to trade him. And they've been able to add some proven veterans from winning franchises that should help overhaul the culture of the locker room.
Will that all be enough to buy Patricia time to see this rebuild through? And is it enough to convince Matthew Stafford that he should stick around after rumors began to circulate that he might be interested in being traded earlier this offseason (though Stafford's agent denied it and Quinn and Patricia both made it clear they weren't interested)? That's hard to say, but the SportsLine Projection Model has simulated the 2020 NFL season 10,000 times and thinks the Lions have improved.
Detroit wins an average of 7.2 games in simulations and makes the postseason 19.0 percent of the time. That's a fairly significant jump from the 6.1 projected wins the model predicted prior to the start of free agency. Meanwhile, William Hill Sportsbook currently lists the Lions at 100-1 to win the 2021 Super Bowl, which are tied for fifth-worst odds in the NFL.