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Break From The Pack! 

Detroit Sportswriters And Bloggers Call The Lions' Upcoming Season

Will 2010 finally be the year of the Lion? We surveyed five young local sports authorities for the straight dirt on what we can expect from Jim Schwartz's team. The prognosis? While this might not be a Super Bowl squad (yet), there are a lot of reasons for football fans to get excited. Check out the full Lions' 2010 Sports Report at realdetroitweekly.com. | RDW

Jay Scott

Co-Host of RealTalkFM, 107.5 WGPR-FM

2010 Lions record: 5-11 

Their schedule is BRUTAL. Those of you talking about seven, eight, or even nine wins, You show me where they're getting a sixth, seventh, and eighth win from.

Will they make playoffs?

Playoffs!? Are you kiddin' me? You're Talking About Playoffs!? I just hope they win more than two games.

What are the team's strengths?

Their offense will be markedly improved, or at least it better be. If stand out wide receiver Calvin Johnson can stay healthy, he can be dominant. The Lions went out and got him some help by signing Nate Burleson as a Free Agent from Seattle (Burleson played under the same offensive system when he played alongside Randy Moss in Minnesota), as well as trading for tight endTony Scheffler (Western Michigan) from Denver and drafting potential stud running back Jahvid Best from Cal. A solid running game can make things so much easier for your pass game to flourish, and hopefully keep second-year quarterback Matthew Stafford from throwing so many interceptions. Also look for a distinct improvement in the defensive line with the additions of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams, and #2 overall pick (and potential beast) Ndamukong Suh.

What are the team's biggest weaknesses? 

Two words: The secondary! Go in your refrigerator, pull out a piece of Swiss cheese and start counting the holes. There's your Detroit Lions' secondary. There are many reasons why this team has lost 37 of their last 40 games, and the defensive backs are near the top of the list. Many a C-list quarterback has been cashing A-list checks thanks to 60 minutes against the Lions. Aside from heavy-hitter Louis Delmas (Western Michigan), the Lions will be relying on the likes of journeyman Chris Houston and rookie Amari Spievey to get the job done. Their linebacking corps is seemingly always tenuous, and this year is no exception with veteran Julian Peterson (Michigan State) and two second year guys, DeAndre Levy and Zach "The Pain Train" Follett looking to anchor a defense that seemingly starts every game in a 10-0 hole. By the way, can anyone tell me who's returning punts and kicks for this team? Don't worry. I'll wait.

Will there be any local media blackouts this season?

Yes. Barring a stunning win streak, look for the blackouts to start coming around Week 5 when they play St. Louis at home. The Home Opener v. the Eagles will sell out. The Thanksgiving Day game against the Patriots will sell out. The divisional games (Minnesota, Chicago, Green Bay) will likely sell out thanks to the visiting fans, but the other three games are a crap shoot. If the team is competitive, the fans will come. If they are on the business end of some beat downs, get your radios ready.

Who are the Lions' Next Big Things?

Jahvid Best could be something special if he can stay healthy. He has the ability to be the big play back that the Lions have sorely missed since "you know who" retired (and not I am not comparing Best to Barry Sanders in the least). Ndamukong Suh is already commanding double teams in the preseason and could be a force once he gets some more help at linebacker to force opposing offenses to have to single cover him. And also, keep an eye on Defensive lineman Corey Williams as he adjusts to the Lions 4-3 scheme.

At what position could they stand to improve the most?

Umm...did I mention their Secondary is trash? In next year's draft the Lions better not even think of going near an offensive player before the 4th round. It should be All DBs, All The Time! Plus, whenever the Lions feel the need to address their lack of a legit Kick Return game, that would be greatly appreciated. It seems like ages ago that the Lions would consistently have threats returning punts and kicks such as Eddie Drummond, Desmond Howard, Terry Fair, and even going back to Mel Gray. A great return game makes the offense's job so much easier.

Who should be quarterbacking the team? 

Ugh ... this question. I have to say Matthew Stafford by default because he's been paid a bakery's worth of bread ($42 million guaranteed!) and there's not another viable option. People in this city have hitched their proverbial wagon to this cat. He is romanticized in the media as if the Lions won 12 games, not two, last year. They speak of his "cocky smirk" and his "gunslinger" mentality. I've heard him compared to Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Dan Marino. They constantly bring up his "swagger." Well, to quote a somewhat decently known rapper, you ain't got no swag with 20 interceptions and two wins in 10 games. If he's as great as everyone claims he looks in practice (when he's facing that spaghetti strainer the Lions call a secondary), then he will make better decisions on the field, learn how to trust his receivers and work on his accuracy. Having multiple games of four or more picks won't cut it this year. Ask Joey Harrington, Rasheed Wallace and Chris Osgood how quickly this city will turn on you if you mess up.

What do you think of head coach Jim Schwartz?

Schwartz is a hell of a good guy. He's a good family man. Solid leader. He loves metal and, according to his Twitter feed, digs classic Hip-Hop. The jury is still out on him as a coach, however. Not too many guys were gonna win more than four games with that pile of garbage he was stuck with last year, so this will be the true beginning of the Schwartz era. How he handles this year will go a long way in determining his future.

How do the Lions make you feel? (Sound Off!)

The Lions are that family member that makes you blindly angry, and even embarrasses you in public, but you support them because they are still your family. I'm about to turn 31. I'm entering my 21st year of Lions fandom. The first 10 years, I saw the Lions post seven seasons of 8-8 or better. They made the playoffs six times. I vividly remember them winning their only playoff game in the last 53 years in January 1992 when they beat the Cowboys 38-6 at the Silverdome. These last 10 years have been a nightmare. Matt Millen and William Clay Ford turned a semi-respectable team into a joke. They have lost at least 10 games a year in nine of the last 10 seasons, including a winless season in 2008. In a league that is tailor-made for teams to go no 8-8 at least once every three years, that is inexcusable. And all I have heard the last five years from the Lions, their front office and other delusional fans is how "this year we're gonna shock the world" and "I guarantee we're gonna win 10 games!" Hell, even a few of this year's Lions have said crap like this. As I have said repeatedly on RealTalkFM, my motto for the 2010 Lions is four simple words: Shut Up and Win! Don't tell us you can go from the outhouse to the penthouse. Just do what the Saints did and start Winning! You want to silence the doubters like me? You want people and opponents to take you seriously? Stop talking and start winning some damn games! Period.

Sean Yuille

Managing Editor of PrideOfDetroit.com and SBNationDetroit.com

2010 Lions record: 6-10

Will they make playoffs?

No.

What are the team's strengths?

The Lions' offense has the potential to do some serious damage this season and is definitely the team's best strength. With playmakers like Matthew Stafford, Jahvid Best, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and so on, the potential is certainly there for the offense to be explosive. During the preseason, we have seen the Lions spread the ball around quite a bit, especially out of the shotgun, and this could finally be the year where defenses truly fear Detroit's offense.

What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

The back seven of the defense is one big question mark. The linebackers are inexperienced outside of Julian Peterson, and the secondary is not all that impressive on paper. Obviously Louis Delmas is great, but everybody else will have to prove their worth to the Lions very quickly. If they don't, we could be in for another long year where opposing quarterbacks just torch Detroit's secondary.

Will there be any local media blackouts this season?

Even if the Lions get off to a hot start and build some momentum, I would be surprised if there isn't at least one blackout this season. A game against the Rams, for example, is not a very intriguing matchup and is a prime candidate to be blacked out.

Who are the Lions' Next Big Things?

Based on the preseason, I think Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best have the potential to become the Lions' big-name players on offense. Stafford has shown a ton of growth from year one to two already, and we all know how great Johnson is. As for Best, he can score every time he touches the ball, and if he, like the others, can stay healthy, don't be surprised if people start making comparisons to a certain No. 20 that used to play for the Lions. That might be unfair to Best because nobody will ever be that good again, but Best certainly has the potential to be a great back.

At what position could they stand to improve the most?

The Lions' secondary has been awful for years now. Although the cornerback position is much better than last year thanks to the moves to acquire Jonathan Wade, Chris Houston and Dre Bly, there is still room for more talent and depth at corner. Also, the Lions could use an upgrade at the safety position to give Louis Delmas a fellow starter that is a little closer to his own talent level.

Who should be quarterbacking the team?

This is Matthew Stafford's team. There is no doubt about that.

What do you think of head coach Jim Schwartz?

Jim Schwartz is not only a great coach, but also a man of the people. He seems like your average, everyday guy who just happens to be a football coach. To say Lions fans like him would be an understatement. A July poll on PrideOfDetroit.com that had nearly 2500 votes gave him an approval rating of 95 percent, which shows you just how much faith fans have in him.

How do the Lions make you feel? (Sound Off!)

Two short years ago, it was not very much fun to write about or cheer for this team. Now, however, the light at the end of the tunnel finally is becoming visible. The Lions may not make a jump from mediocrity to playoff contention in 2010, but most Lions fans believe it is only a matter of time until Jim Schwartz and company finally put Detroit back on the professional football map.

Shawn Wright

Former Editor-in-Chief and current Managing Editor of The South End (WSU); stringer/freelance writer in The Detroit News' sports department.

2010 Lions record: 6-10

Will they make playoffs?

No. The NFC North is an especially tough division, with the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings as two of the frontrunners. Nine to 10 victories will probably get a team into the playoffs. And I don't think the Lions will be able to make a seven- to eight-win improvement over last year's 2-14 record.

What are the team's strengths?

They have many offensive options, specifically offensive playmakers like wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Jahvid Best.

What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

The defensive backfield still continues to remain a hindrance. Though they added cornerbacks Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade to the backfield, safety Louis Delmas has been banged up. And right now, the Lions are counting on rookie Amari Spievey to fill in at safety.

Will there be any local media blackouts this season? 

I think there will be at least one. Three of the first four games are on the road and the Lions could possibly be 0-4 when they return home to play the St. Louis Rams on 10/10. The Rams were the worst team last season with a 1-15 record. The Lions were the second worst.

Who are the Lions' Next Big Things?

Running back Jahvid Best and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh — both rookies — are already showing great promise at their positions. And I think they will continue to.

At what position could they stand to improve the most?

The Lions need to improve in the defensive backfield, especially at the corner and safety positions.

Who should be quarterbacking the team?

It should be Matthew Stafford, without a doubt. The kid learned a lot in his inaugural season last year. He will continue to grow into the position.

What do you think of head coach Jim Schwartz?

I think the verdict is still out. He's only been here one year; it usually takes three years to get a good idea of how effective a coach is.

How do the Lions make you feel? (Sound Off!)

At this moment, I'm pretty apathetic toward the Lions. They haven't done anything in recent years to make me jump for joy or hang my head in sorrow. I just don't get worked up about them, either way.

Ty Schalter

Lions blogger at thelionsinwinter.com

Season prediction: 7-9, likely with a slow start against a tough early schedule.

What are the team's strengths?

Offense, offense, offense. Young Matthew Stafford has made believers out of his coaches, teammates and the national media. Rookie running back Jahvid Best looks like the real deal. Wideout Calvin Johnson finally has a wingman in free agent Nate Burleson, and WMU alumnus TE Tony Scheffler should create mismatches in the middle of the field. Even the offensive line looks sharp!

What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

Defense, defense, defense. The linebacking corps consists of former Spartan Julian Peterson, second-year third-round pick DeAndre Levy, and second-year seventh-rounder Zack Follett. As a group, they're talented — but their pass coverage has been a big issue in the preseason. Behind them, standout second-year safety Louis Delmas has been unable to stay on the field due to a groin injury; even with him, the secondary looked like the weakest part of the team! Expect the Lions to give up a lot of yards and points through the air in 2010.

At what position could they stand to improve the most?

Anyone not named Louis Delmas in the defensive backfield is going to have a lot to prove this year; especially safety C.C Brown, nicknamed "Can't Cover Brown" by Giants fans last year.

How do the Lions make you feel? (Sound Off!)

The Lions somehow make me feel the same way every year: like something great is just about to happen. Time and time again, us Lions fans let ourselves hope just a little bit, believe just a little bit ... and for decades, our hopes have been in vain. Maybe Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson won't take us to the promised land this season — but once again, it feels just close enough to make me believe. Somehow, after all that's gone on, I still have some Lion pride.

Zac Snyder

Lead blogger, Sidelionreport.com

2011 Lions record: 6-10

Will they make playoffs?

The Lions will fall short of the playoffs this year but give us some signs a playoff appearance is not too far off.

What are the team's strengths?

The offense is obviously ahead of the defense. The running game should be much improved and the passing game has a chance to be dynamic.

What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

The secondary really concerns me. The Lions will have a lot of trouble stopping opposing passing attacks due to an overall lack of talent and depth. The level of talent and depth take another hit if Louis Delmas' groin injury lingers.

Will there be any local media blackouts this season?

Despite the depressed local economy and my prediction of another losing season, I will go out on a limb and say that the Lions will sell out all their games this year. Football is king in the area and the Lions have enough going for them that people will want to see.

Who are the Lions' Next Big Things?

Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best are all young dynamic talents that could give Lions fans a lot to cheer about for a number of years. Best has me most excited because of his game changing speed. It doesn't take long to see his talents on display.

At what position could they stand to improve the most?

Cornerback. The current group is essentially a collection of journeymen.

Who should be quarterbacking the team?

There is no debate that this is Matthew Stafford's team. The days of quarterback controversies are over in Detroit.

What do you think of head coach Jim Schwartz?

I love the way Jim Schwartz approaches his job. His demeanor is amazingly calm and often gives very candid responses to interview questions rather than resorting to say-nothing answers that we hear from so many other athletes and coaches. He exudes a sense of "cool" and comes across as a down-to-earth guy.

How do the Lions make you feel? (Sound off!)

The Lions make me feel hopeful. It finally feels like there is some sort of plan the organization is trying to follow. It seems that Martin Mayhew gets more in return than he gives up in every deal he makes and the Lions' draft record has completely turned around from the Millen-era. They have not turned that into wins on the field as of yet but the fact that it feels like they are heading in the right direction makes me a little more patient. | RDW

Detroit Sportswriters And Bloggers Call The Lions' Upcoming Season
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