Lions’ NFL playoff push: Here’s how Detroit turned into the team no one wants to play in the postseason – CBSSports.com

Detroit’s defense is like early-morning Dan Campbell before caffeine is coursing through his bulging veins. The Lions offense? It’s Campbell after 80 ounces of coffee with four shots of espresso as a kicker, fresh out of the weight room.

Defensively, the Lions are tied for last in Expected Points Added per play (+0.11) through Week 14. The offense is now ninth in EPA per play (+0.059). 

No team in football has a more sizable dichotomy between their offensive and defensive efficiency. 

Some division winner in the NFC will not be thrilled about drawing the Lions in the first round of the playoffs. 

Yes, of course, Detroit has to get there first. But let’s be real — Campbell’s squad has feels playoff-caliber, doesn’t it? The Lions are winners of five of six and, importantly, the two teams in front of them in the NFC playoff picture are reeling. The Giants, currently the last team in the NFC postseason, have one win since their Week 9 bye. The surprising Seahawks have lost three of four.

Let’s focus on Detroit’s offense. It’s why the Lions would be a frightening playoff matchup. And I’ll start at quarterback. 

The supposed-to-just-be-a-bridge-quarterback Jared Goff now has back-to-back contests with a passer rating over 115, and his average passer rating over the last five is 106.42. He’s completed 69.2% of his throws in that time frame and is making impeccable throws like this one every week. 

Want more Lions statistical love? I got you. Since Week 10, Detroit’s offense is second in the NFL in EPA per play (+0.176), trailing only the mighty Chiefs. Unsurprisingly, the Lions have averaged 32.8 points per in that stretch.  

Because offensive linemen still, sadly, don’t get the amount of credit they deserve as part of explosive offenses, I’m compelled to mention how well the Lions are blocking of late. During this six-game ascension in the NFC standings, Detroit’s bruising front has allowed the eighth-lowest pressure rate in the NFL, and only Tom Brady and Dak Prescott have been sacked at a lower rate than Goff’s 3.0%. 

Everyone knows, it’s vital to be playing your best football close to the playoffs. Getting healthy helps that. 

And finally, the Lions offense is healthy. Jameson Williams has now appeared in two games and caught his first NFL touchdown against the Vikings. D.J. Chark, who missed nearly two months after a late September injury, is now fully up to speed, with consecutive games of over 90 receiving yards. Then there’s Goff’s trusty bud, Josh Reynolds, and budding superstar Amon-Ra St. Brown. Hell, Penei Sewell had the game-sealing reception against Minnesota. The snag and subsequent dive for the first down provided all of us one of the most glorious in-game photos in NFL history. 

Even without T.J. Hockenson, the Lions’ now-healthy receiving contingent sends a varied set of specific skills at the opposing secondary every week. 

St. Brown is 10th in receiving yards through Week 14, and only five pass catchers (Travis Kelce, Justin Jefferson, Stefon Diggs, and Tyreek Hill) have more catches for first downs. He’s rapidly gone from fun underdog story as a rookie to a preeminent slot weapon. 

Credit is also due to offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, a 36-year-old with deep ties to Campbell. He served as the pass-game coordinator over the final nine weeks of the 2021 season, and the Lions were ninth in EPA per play once Johnson stepped into a key role offensively. 

Put it all together in this Venti Starbucks cup, and it’s clear — the Lions boast a smartly schemed offense with a steady, well-protected, vastly experienced quarterback, a diverse collection of targets, plus a healthy stable of productive backs. Jamaal Williams still leads the NFL in touchdowns with 14. 

Sure, if the Lions get to the playoffs, the ears of some confident division champ will perk up when knows it’ll face the league’s most susceptible defense. 

Then, massive anxiety will kick in when that same team comes to the realization it will see one of the league’s most efficient, well-rounded offenses and a kneecap-biting head coach who’ll be hopped up on around 1,000 mg of caffeine for the game.  

This content was originally published here.

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