Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez preview the Detroit Lions’ game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions have finished the NFL season in second place!

No, not second place in the NFL standings. Or the NFC standings. Or the NFC North standings.

But it is in a meaningful category: The NFL’s most productive rookie class this year.

So yes, there’s hope for your Lions after all.

That hope is based on an ESPN ranking, which in turn is based on the overall grades Pro Football Focus gave to all 32 teams’ drafted and undrafted rookies through Week 13.

The Lions only finished behind the champion Cleveland Browns. (Disclaimer: People like me, who write about the NFL, look for any and all opportunities to use the phrase “champion Cleveland Browns”). The Browns’ success largely hinged on Baker Mayfield, who is PFF’s 14th-highest-graded quarterback this season.

But the Lions had a very strong showing. Da’Shawn Hand led the way. He ranks 12th out of 125 interior defensive linemen who had played at least 150 defensive snaps. Hand has had an above average PFF grade in nine of 12 games this season.

Kerryon Johnson’s PFF grade ranked 12th among qualifying running backs. And left guard Frank Ragnow’s 810 snaps ranks third among all rookies in offensive/defensive snaps.

Megatron weed jokes

Aretha Franklin’s death and the mid-term elections were huge newsmakers in 2018.

But my personal favorite story of the year came from Free Press politics reporter Kathleen Gray’s story on former Lions Calvin Johnson and Rob Sims being denied prequalification status by a state board for their (I’m not going to say joint) business venture that included a marijuana dispensary, a grow operation and a marijuana processing facility.

It’s my favorite simply because of all the weed jokes it sparked. (Sorry, that was intentional.)

Here were some of my favorites:

Facebook commenter Mike Allard: “Why dodo (sic) the guys want to grow marijuana when their reason for needing it (playing for the Lions) is gone?”

From Twitter:

@ AlecJNathan: MegaChron

@DoctorOSP: “Nothin’ Bundt Blunts.” He can team up with Marvin Jones. If you buy so many blunts you get a cake for free.

@JeffRomback: MegaTronic

@spleen95shortbr: 420 Megatron Street

Please, please email or tweet me some more jokes. They made my day.

Megatron/Sims pot story rating: 420/10. Megatron/Sims pot story spirit animal: Cheech and Chong.

Fight club

If you’re a Red Wings fan or a hockey fan of a certain age, you had to love the way the Wings fought back against the Colorado Avalanche in a 2-0 loss Sunday at Little Caesars Arena.

The Wings won both third-period fights. Tyler Bertuzzi beat up Ian Cole in retaliation for hitting Andreas Athanasiou at center ice. Then Anthony Mantha delivered some payback when he pounded Patrik Nemeth for shoving Dylan Larkin head-first into the boards.

That wasn’t all. Bertuzzi was suspended two games by the NHL for punching Matt Calvert after he crashed the Wings’ bench to retrieve his stick. Calvert wasn’t exactly innocent in the whole episode. In my book, you enter an opposing bench at your own peril.

Good on the Wings. They’re showing life as they grow and learn to become a team. This kind of fight and grit is what winning hockey looks like.

Wings-Avs fight rating: 1997/10. Wings-Avs fight spirit animal: Darren McCarty punching a cowardly turtle.

Wilder-Fury fight

I was on the fence about spending $75 for the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury heavyweight title fight last Saturday. I didn’t, and boy did I regret it.

Luckily, I had WJR’s Michael Stets recount the whole thing for me in the Lions locker room. Stets also works as a host on SiriusXM Fight Nation and gave a great account of the whole fight, which ended in a draw. He didn’t even charge me.

I hope there’s a rematch soon. No question they’re getting my $75 next time. There’s nothing like a great heavyweight title fight to invigorate the sport.

Wilder-Fury rating: 113-113/10. Wilder-Fury spirit animal: Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.