Monday, January 17, 2011

Lions Congregation: Stafford = Playoff Push?

Time once again for the Lions Congregation!  Where Lions bloggers from around the web gather to ponder your emails.  This week, we glance at the playoffs and wonder could that be the Lions some day?  Maybe in the 2011 season? Assuming, of course, there is a 2011 season

The Panel:

Al of the Wayne Fontes Experience

Zac of The Sidelion Report

Blades Boyd, Contributor

Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog

NetRat of The Net Rat Detroit Lions Site

DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions

Question from Blane H. : Does a Healthy Matthew Stafford make the Lions instant playoff contenders in 2011? Assuming there is no lock out of course.


Al:  If we're talking about the NFC West...definitely. But in a division with the Packers and Bears, who happen to be playing for the NFC Championship next Sunday?

Not yet.  Not as the Lions currently stand, anyway...unless Matthew Stafford can play linebacker or cornerback.

Even if the Lions don't do more than add a little depth on offense, they will have more than enough talent starting on that side of the ball to compete for a wild card. But the offense isn't the issue. This defensive back seven, especially at outside linebacker and cornerback, is the issue.

I love the thought of Stafford being the Lions' quarterback for a full season. Regardless of the Jets making the AFC title game, does anyone believe Mark Sanchez is the reason why? I'll still take a healthy Stafford over Sanchez. I really believe the talent differential if obvious.

So yes, Stafford legitimatizes the Lions, and they'll be considered a dark horse candidate to make the post season. But the only way the Lions can move from playoff dark horse to worthy contender is to solidify a defense currently in flux

Once the Lions know who will be starting at both outside linebacker spots and at least one cornerback position, then, and only then, can the talk turn serious about going to the playoffs with Matthew Stafford.

Zac:  Thanks for the question Blane. Everyone seems to have their own definition of what it means to be a playoff contender. To me, the teams that are playoff contenders at least show up in the "also in the hunt" column when the networks put up their graphical representation of the playoff picture. Does a healthy Matthew Stafford put the Lions in that position next year? I think he does.

As was the general consensus of the previous Lions congregation, this year's team met expectations with their 6-10 record. The big kicker is that they did that without the benefit of the man they drafted to be their all-world franchise quarterback. To put it bluntly, if getting Matthew Stafford back on the field doesn't provide another boost forward then the Lions have big issues.

I was encouraged by what I saw from Stafford in the limited amount he was able to play. Remember, the Lions won the only game he finished and were leading in the two he left. It doesn't sound like anyone in the locker room is questioning Matthew Stafford as a quarterback and a leader so there is no reason to expect that he won't have them "in the hunt".

Blades:  To answer the question just as in the answer is maybe. If the lions can upgrade cb and lb on the offseason then the lions are playoff contenders with a healthy Stafford. But then there is everything else. Everything else being I do not believe stafford can stay healthy and I honestly think at this time next year we will be talking about who will be our next starting qb. I think his shoulder is done and I think it's a mistake he doesn't have surgery. Now I know what you're thinking, "I'm

Sorry Blades, but I'll take a dr's opinion over yours any day." And most of the time I would agree. Only this time, I can speak from experience. I've had the exact same injury as stafford when I played D2 ball and I was told that it would heal itself. Since then, I've dislocated my shoulder 26 times (literally) till I was told I needed surgery. This will be a continuing injury for Stafford and until he gets surgery, the lions will be nothing more then pretenders instead of contenders.

Steve:  Regarding the NFL labor situation, you can almost guarantee that there will be an abbreviated off-season (No OTA's?) of some sort, but both parties (players and owners) know that they are much better off with football games occurring unimpeded, than not. 

At any rate, Matthew Stafford is a crucial piece towards any potential playoff contention that the Lions might be able to enjoy.  In Stafford's 9 1/2 (or so?) quarters of football this season, he looked confident and his arm was dynamic.The future health (beyond next season) of the Lions franchise is even more inextricably linked with the health and development of Stafford.  Regardless of their upcoming '11 success or failure, the Lions need Stafford to emerge as a reliable, yet threatening, commodity.The problem is, the Lions now have their opponent's complete attention and they will not be able to surprise anybody.  They possess considerable talent and improving depth, and their opponent's will prepare accordingly. 

What Stafford may represent, if the appropriate off-season additions and upgrades are made, is the final elusive piece which makes them viable as Super Bowl contenders.  Oh, what a difference a four-game winning streak makes...Now back to reality.

NetRat:  No.  It does make it more likely though.  The NFL is still a team sport and a few more pieces need to be found to make the team a little more solid.  Stafford would certainly contribute to the success of the team, but he alone is not enough to propel the team into the playoffs.

DetFan1979:  A healthy Stafford would make the Lions much more competitive, and certainly put them “in the hunt” for a playoff spot.  However, it would take a lot of luck. Just as important will be how the Lions fill out the defensive secondary and the linebacker positions this ifseason.  Stafford can throw to CJ all day, but the Lions can’t stop anyone, they won’t go anywhere in the playoffs should they luck into a trip there.

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