The baseball season may be over, but there is still plenty of excitement around the Detroit sports scene. As we dredge through a Detroit Tigers’ offseason with little to look forward to, we have reached out to our friends at other SB Nation blogs within the Detroit community to help us refocus our fandom. To dive into the season of the Tigers’ next-door neighbors, we connected with Ryan Mathews of Pride Of Detroit.
The Lions sit at 5-4 on the season and are squarely situated in the middle of the NFC standings. Led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions are looking for a strong second half of the season and their third playoff berth in the past four years. A somewhat favorable schedule down the stretch gives them some optimism, but anything can happen in today’s NFL.
Ryan, how would you best describe the Lions’ season to date for someone who has not really been paying attention?
The team got off to a hot start, made its way into the top five of nearly every set of power rankings after a Week 4 victory over the division rival Minnesota Vikings — on the road no less — and then things fell apart. Three straight losses to the Panthers, Saints, and Steelers put this team is in a rather difficult spot, but since then, Detroit has won two straight and put themselves back into contention for the playoffs.
Matthew Stafford made headlines before the season began with a huge contract extension. How has he looked so far?
Matthew Stafford is literally the least of the Lions problems, and that’s going to come as a shock to someone who last paid attention to this team back in January when the Lions lost in the Wild Card round to the Seattle Seahawks. Much of the Lions’ woes towards the end of last season, including that aforementioned Seattle game, were due to the damaged ligaments in the fingers of Stafford’s throwing hand, but since signing that contract extension, Stafford has played at a high level all season long.
Who are some of the players that have made a big impact for the Lions this season that may be lesser-known?
For me it’s easy to single out one player who has made a huge impact on this team and that’s Jamal Agnew. Agnew is a player your casual fan won’t know anything about, but he’s by far one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL.
He’s a fifth-round rookie from a small FCS school in San Diego, and while he’s listed as a cornerback, and that will eventually be his position, Agnew is an absolute dynamo on special teams. He has two punt returns for touchdowns this season, and every time he touches the football there’s this tangible excitement while you’re watching him.
In recent weeks, the Lions have gotten him involved on the offensive side of the ball too, lining up as a wide receiver and a running back in certain formations, so it’s been a treat to see Detroit get creative and have his athleticism be utilized in all facets of the game.
Somewhat quietly, the Lions have found themselves in the postseason three times over the past five years. Are they headed this way again in 2017?
It’s really tough to say as of right now because the NFC playoff picture, as it stands today, is muddied at best. The Vikings lead the NFC North with a 7-2 record, but the Lions aren’t far behind at 5-4, especially considering Detroit already beat Minnesota once and play them at Ford Field on Thanksgiving.
They certainly have a shot at making the playoffs for a second-consecutive season, but they’re going to have to take care of business over their next seven games, and do so with very little margin for error.
What would you tell Tigers fans about why they should follow the Lions over the next couple months?
So here’s the thing that ties into both why you should care about the Lions and the team’s chances to make the playoffs.
Over these next two weeks, this playoff picture is going to come into focus. Baseball isn’t interesting again until the winter meetings, so why not check in with the professional football team in Detroit, see if they can get themselves into the race for the playoffs, and then hit eject as soon as things don’t look so great for the Lions? Then, you can go back to watching the Tigers trade all of our favorite players for things that don’t bring us instantaneous joy and happiness--because isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
Oh, also, over on our Facebook page at Pride Of Detroit, we play ‘Africa’ by Toto every time the Lions win a football game and that’s a lot of fun to listen to on repeat.
Thanks again to Ryan for taking the time to chat with us. Be sure to follow Pride Of Detroit for all of your Lions coverage this season as they continue their hunt for the playoffs!