2011 Record: 10-6-0 (2nd in NFC North)
HEAD COACH: Jim Schwartz
Key Additions: DL Everette Brown; CB Jacob Lacey
Key Losses: QB Drew Stanton; LB Bobby Carpenter; CB Eric Wright
Offense: What else can you say about quarterback Matthew Stafford after the numbers he put up in 2011?
The fourth year QB finally stayed healthy all season and threw for a team record 5,038 yards with 41 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
His primary targets heading into this season once again will be wide receiver Calvin Johnson (96 receptions, 1,681 yards, 17.5 ypc average and 16 touchdowns) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who made 83 catches for 777 yards and five touchdowns.
Nate Burleson (73, 757, three TD), Titus Young (48, 607, six TD) and tight end Tony Scheffler (26, 347, six TD) are also valuable targets in the pass happy offense the Lions run.
The running game is a different story as veteran Kevin Smith (72 carries for 356 yards, four TD) seems to be the starter by default after Jahvid Best appears to be slow in recovering from another injury plagued season in which he ran for 390 yards on 84 carries with a pair of touchdowns in only six games.
Mikel Leshoure didn't play at all last year when he was injured in pre-season and also has been slow in recovery. The Lions also have Keiland Williams (58, 195, two TD) and Stefan Logan on hand to provide depth.
The line consists of center Dominic Raiola, tackles Gosder Cherilus and veteran Jeff Backus, along with guards Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman. The team's top draft pick in 2012, Reilly Reiff, is getting a long look in camp and will ready to step in where needed at either a guard or tackle position.
Also in the mix is Dan Gerberry, Dylan Gandy, Jason Fox and Corey Hillard.
Detroit finished last season scoring 474 points (29.8 points a game), which was fourth in the league while 396 yards per game, which ranked fifth overall. The passing game was fourth in the NFL, averaging 301 yards per game. The running attack was a dismal 29th overall, gaining only 95 yards per game.
Defense: Getting defensive end Cliff Avril back in time for the season was big for the Lions as he and Ndomukong Suh, along with Corey Williams and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch form a tremendous defensive front line that can stuff the run as well as get after opposing quarterbacks.
Avril amassed eleven QB sacks last season with Suh getting four as well. Vanden Bosch, a 12-year veteran, had eight sacks as well to help the Lions accumulate 41 total sacks. Lawrence Jackson (4 1/2 sacks) is in reserve at defensive end along with DT Nick Fairley and Sammie Hill and Willie Young.
The linebackers are Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy on the outside with Stephen Tulloch (three sacks and two interceptions) in the middle. Doug Hogue, Ashlee Palmer and rookie Tahir Whitehead (Temple) will be the backups.
The secondary has Chris Houston (five interceptions with two taken back for scores) and Aaron Berry at cornerback along with safeties Amari Spievey (three INT) and Louis Delmas.
In reserve are Alphonso Smith (three picks, one taken back for TD), rookie Dwight Bentley, Erik Coleman and Jacob Lacey.
Detroit's defense finished 23rd in the NFL last season, giving up 368 yards per game. The pass defense allowed 240 yards a game (22nd) and the Lions finished 23rd against the run, giving up 128 yards per game.
OUTLOOK: After a roller coaster ride 2011 season, the Lions are looking to return to the playoffs while battling the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in the NFC North.
Head Coach Jim Schwartz is a fiery type who wears his emotions on his sleeve and the team reflects that, especially on defense.
The Lions have an attacking style defense that can get burned by big plays (they were blown out in the first round of the NFC Playoffs, 45-28 against New Orleans) but they also were a plus-11 in the turnover category as a result of the ball hawking secondary that had 21 interceptions. In addition, the Lions defense scored six touchdowns.
Expect the team to score a lot of points again this year with Stafford and Johnson in the house. The passing attack is one of the best in the NFL and if the running game can get some consistency, it will only enhance the offense.
This team will not sneak up on anybody this year as they did in 2011 when they overcame huge deficits (including twice overcoming 20-plus point deficits) to win.
A 9-7 finish is likely with a tougher schedule looming and some questions surrounding the running game. But that may be just enough to get the Lions back to the playoffs.
Week 1- vs. St. Louis
Week 2- at San Francisco
Week 3- at Tennessee
Week 4- vs. Minnesota
Week 5- BYE
Week 6- at Philadelphia
Week 7- at Chicago
Week 8- vs. Seattle
Week 9- at Jacksonville
Week 10- at Minnesota
Week 11- vs. Green Bay
Week 12- vs. Houston
Week 13- vs. Indianapolis
Week 14- at Green Bay
Week 15- at Arizonaa
Week 16- vs. Atlanta
Week 17- vs. Chicago