The Detroit Lions enter Thanksgiving’s ‘showdown’ against the Chicago Bears as a winless team. It’s possible that by the time you read this, they upended the dynamic duo of Matt Nagy and Andy Dalton and are celebrating their first win with a healthy piece of Turducken. But whether Detroit is 0-for or has a win or two when the season comes to a close, Lions fans can feel somewhat optimistic—and thankful—entering the most festive time of year.
It can’t get any worse, right? I mean, that’s kind of a good thing? This is rock bottom. A winless season is, by definition, about as bad as it gets. Combine the record with the fact Detroit has arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, and, yeah: no matter what, next year will be better. Be thankful!
No wins and no quarterback naturally means Lions fans are turning their attention to the 2022 NFL Draft, and as of now, Detroit is in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 overall pick. It’s the best gift fans can receive at season’s end; the suffering will be worth it knowing the top collegiate prospect, regardless of position, will play in the Motor City in 2022. The bad news? It might not be a quarterback (although, file away Kenny Pickett’s name for later). But no matter what position Detroit snags at pick 1.01, he’ll be a stud. And remember: The Lions have a second first-round pick next April because of the Matthew Stafford trade. Two first-round rookies? Yes, that’s exciting.
And, look, the Lions aren’t completely devoid of talent. Running back D’Andre Swift is emerging as a legitimate superstar and has a chance to be one of the top five players at the position in 2022. He’s the kind of offensive piece that Detroit can build their team around, especially if they land a rookie quarterback this offseason who’ll need to lean on a player like Swift (as both a runner and receiver) early in his career. Lions fans should toast to Swift’s success in 2021.
Offensive tackle Penei Sewell is another reason Lions fans should be thankful in an otherwise brutal year. The 2021 first-round pick has developed nicely in his rookie season and is PFF’s highest-graded player (who’s played more than 223 snaps) on Detroit’s offense. That’s saying quite a bit for a first-year guy who didn’t play in 2020 due to a COVID-19 opt out. The Lions have one of the game’s most important positions settled with Sewell, and like Swift, can draft a rookie quarterback with confidence knowing Sewell will be one of his bookend offensive tackles.
Better days lie ahead for the Lions. They’ve played a tough brand of football in 2021 and are a few bad breaks from actually having a couple of wins on their ledger. They lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 when kicker Justin Tucker blasted an NFL-record 66-yard field goal with time expiring. Three of Detroit’s losses have been by three points or less and they do have a tie this year. That’s four games that could’ve gone their way with a bounce here or there. A 4-6 Lions team would feel a lot different than their current 0-9-1 standing, right?
With a significant injection of talent coming via the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and a new quarterback expected behind center next season, the Lions aren’t that far away from a respectable brand of football.