The Detroit Lions will be bystanders in the 2019 playoffs, which means the focus now shifts to the 2019 regular season, and with the team now locked into last place in the NFC North, the schedule for next year is already coming into focus in a major way. Next season, the Lions will tangle with foes from the AFC West and NFC East for 2019, and in addition to that, will be facing a NFC South and NFC West team as well.
Here’s a quick skeleton look at how things will shape up for Matt Patricia’s Lions in 2019 on the field both home and away:
Home games: Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, NFC South team
Road games: Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, NFC West team
The final two teams will be finalized when the finish of the 2018 season plays out next week. Those squads will be last place just like the Lions, meaning the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be in the driver seat to fill both of those roles.
Detroit’s season in 2018 was a bear from the standpoint that it was a second place schedule by virtue of the Lions’ 9-7 finish last season. This season, it showed, as the team struggled early and often with their slate no matter where the games were held. It didn’t help the Lions that their division was also one of the most competitive in the NFL. That will be waiting for them again in 2019, even if some of the other games get a little bit easier from the fact that they will play a last place slate.
As for the roster shift, the Lions have plenty of holes on their team to address this draft period and free agency, and it just so happens a few of their biggest are spots where top end talents could be had. The defensive line and defensive backfield have several stud players who figure to be around early in the draft, and those are two spots where the Lions could figure to need instant upgrades. Detroit also has needs at tight end, perhaps at wideout and also depth spots on the offense and defense. They also have eight draft picks with which to work, so it would be great for the team if they were able to make them as high as they could to give them an advantage.
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Combined with a young linebacking group, there is a hope that the Lions could turn into one of the NFL’s more elite groups on defense if they are able to continue the arrow trending upward. Certainly, as these cases show, there is reason for hope that could soon be the case, as they’ve already got a nice place to start with some solid and budding talents on the field. Getting a high draft pick into the mix will help this turnaround further.
Interestingly enough, many early mocks have had the Lions looking elsewhere than along the defensive front. Cornerback has also been alluded to as one of the team’s bigger draft needs coming up. Detroit’s next draft, whatever pick they might land, is going to have to be heavy along the defensive front. The Lions need some depth there and more playmakers, and that’s without even figuring in the fact that they could lose Ezekiel Ansah and could also lose Ricky Jean Francois, who are on one year deals.
Obviously, the Lions have some major building to do along their defensive line in the coming seasons in the draft and free agency, and one could expect them to target those spots most in the coming year when it comes to upgrades. But even without those future players and their arrivals, the Lions have been pretty good already, especially against running quarterbacks, which should be downright scary for the opposition. As the Lions have figured out how to stop the run consistently, the whole group has gotten better.
With their fixes in free agency and what figures to be a top draft pick, the Lions should be in good position to turn things around next year, and their schedule could help too given it will be a last place slate. With some health and fixes, the Lions could be primed for a turnaround.