After living in dreamland for much of the season, the Detroit Lions appear to be at a crossroads heading into the final four games of the season. Not too long ago, the Lions were 8-2 and running away with the NFC North title while also looking like they could potentially earn the top seed in the NFC. But after losing two of their last three games, things are far from settled and the season is close to getting away from them. With Detroit having such a young roster, it’ll be up to veteran quarterback Jared Goff to save them.
Goff was close to perfect during the first couple of months of the season. He had 12 touchdown passes and a completion percentage over 68% through Detroit’s first eight games. The Lions were winning games and had jumped out to a comfortable lead atop the NFC North. Behind Goff, the Lions were heavy favorites at all of the top Michigan betting sites to win their first division title in 30 years.
Alas, the wheels have come off for Goff and the Lions in recent weeks. Over his last five games, Goff’s completion percentage has been 64.5%, a significant drop from the early part of the season. Also, after throwing five interceptions in Detroit’s first nine games of the season, Goff has thrown five interceptions in his last four games, doubling his season total in a short period of time. During that time, Goff has also struggled with fumbles, losing three in a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Packers. The Lions have paid the price for Goff’s mistakes in that loss to the Packers and then again in Detroit’s Week 14 loss to the Bears.
The Lions are just not set up to survive Goff’s turnovers. He doesn’t need to be an elite quarterback, but he needs to be an efficient, mistake-free quarterback. Detroit’s defense ranks in the bottom third of the league, conceding 24.2 points per game. While some of Goff’s turnovers have put the Detroit defense in a tough position, the Lions are not a good enough team defensively to win games on that side of the ball.
Over their last five games, the Lions have allowed a minimum of 26 points in every game. There are few reasons to believe that the Detroit defense can turn things around late in the season. That puts all of the pressure on Goff and the offense. When Goff has played well, the Lions have been able to overcome their porous defense and win games. But that puts all of the pressure on Goff to maintain a high level of play during the final month of the season.
Keep in mind that the supporting cast around Goff is young. Leading receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is only in his third NFL season. The Lions have also become heavily reliant on rookie tight end Sam LaPorta and rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Likewise, second-year receiver Jameson Willams, who has become a bigger part of the Detroit offense, has just 15 career games under his belt. The Lions also have three starters on the offensive line drafted in 2020 or later, including a rookie.
In other words, almost everyone on the Detroit offense is looking at Goff for guidance and leadership. That’s particularly true with the Lions largely in uncharted territory. While they were on the periphery of the playoff picture last season, Detroit is in the middle of a playoff race this year. The Lions are two games ahead of the Vikings, who they play twice in the final three weeks of the season. That means Detroit’s four remaining games will be filled with pressure for the young Lions. Despite leading the NFC North for most of the season, there is still enough time for that lead to slip away.
Detroit’s schedule late in the season isn’t doing the Lions any favors either. It begins against a Denver team that’s won six of its last seven games. The Lions also play the Vikings in Week 16 on the road and Week 18 at home with a road game against the Cowboys in between. None of those games will be easy, especially with the Lions losing five in a row in Minneapolis and only winning two of their last 10 meetings against the Vikings.
Ultimately, it’ll be Goff who decides whether or not the Lions survive their late-season gauntlet and overcome their recent struggles to win the NFC North. Not only is he the quarterback, but he’s led a team to the Super Bowl before and is one of the few veterans on Detroit’s young roster. The Lions need him to keep his poise and show his experience while playing mistake-free football over the last four games of the season. If Goff can’t do that, Detroit’s once-promising season will be destined to end in disappointment.