Last week's mailbag was such a hit, we're back with another one. As usual, your questions about the Detroit Lions were great, and I didn't have room for them all.
Reasonable projection of outcomes for remaining games. Where do the Lions end up at year end? — @deboerwa
At 9-3, the Lions are still in great shape to win the NFC North. I don't think they run the table and get the No. 1 (or 2) seed, but I do see them getting to 12 wins for the first time since 1991 and a home playoff game for the first time in 30 years.
The Lions should be favorites in all of their remaining games but their Week 17 road game against the Dallas Cowboys. I'm going to pencil that one in as a loss. Dak Prescott is playing pretty good football right now and I worry he'll have his way with the Lions secondary. Throw in a playmaking Dallas defense and that's going to be a tough one to win.
The Lions are better than the other teams on their schedule, but nothing would surprise me in any of the games. To go pick-by-pick, I think the Lions beat the Chicago Bears in a close one this weekend, though Justin Fields has run all over Aaron Glenn's defense, and the weather — temperatures in the 30s with a chance of snow — is an equalizer.
I'll take the Lions to beat the Broncos next week in primetime. Sean Payton and Dan Campbell know each other well, and that teacher-student relationship can go either way on the field. Ultimately, I still don't trust Russell Wilson and don't think the Broncos can score enough to keep pace.
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And then I'm guessing the Lions and Vikings split their two games, with each team winning at home. I almost feel like the Bears are the more dangerous of the division teams left on the Lions' schedule, but it's tough to beat a team twice in three weeks and Minnesota has a capable defense, especially at U.S. Bank Stadium.
One wild card: If the Lions are locked into the three seed before their Week 18 home game with the Vikings, Campbell could decide to rest some starters, which obviously could impact the outcome of the game.
With last Sunday’s win, is all good in Lions Nation? What’s your take on this? — @MrEd315
Count me among those who never thought things weren't good after the loss to the Packers. Yes, it was disappointing. And yes, the Lions have their flaws. But losses are going to happen and one defeat at home against a division opponent isn't something to freak out about.
That said, I don't think the Lions fixed all of the things that have ailed them since the bye. They didn't turn the ball over, but Jared Goff did fumble the opening quarterback-center exchange (on a play that was nullified by penalty). And while they had two takeaways, including a tricky one-handed interception by Brian Branch, one came on a dropped pass by a Saints receiver and the other when a Saints lineman knocked the ball out of Derek Carr's hands.
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The Lions are and have been one of the four best teams in the NFC, but they haven't been able to stop any of the good offenses they've played this year. They're not going to win the Super Bowl without beating two of the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Cowboys, so they still have plenty of work ahead.
What’s more likely — Lions lose the first home playoff game or win a playoff road game vs Philly or SF? — @crowlick
I had to think about this one a little, because the way things are shaping up, this season probably will go down as a disappointment if the Lions lose their first playoff game, a success if they beat either of those teams on the road to go to the NFC title game, or as acceptable (in the eyes of most) if they lose to a superior team in the divisional round.
I think the 49ers and Eagles are different animals. The 49ers are the better all-around team so long as they stay healthy, while the Eagles have survived while living dangerously at times this year. I'd be surprised if the Lions went into San Francisco and won, but much less so if they beat the Eagles on the road.
That said, I'd say the more likely scenario is they lose the first playoff game, which probably will be against the Packers (who they just lost to at home), the Vikings (who they'd be playing for a third time in four weeks) or the Los Angeles Rams, with Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff facing their old teams. I'd pick the Lions to win in any of those games, but they all come with danger.
By now, we mostly know what this team is. Really good offense, very shaky and questionable defense. They most likely won't win a Super Bowl, but I would like to know your take. Do you think this rebuild is on time, behind schedule, or ahead of schedule? — @JamelleCooper
A. Put me down for the rebuild being slightly ahead of schedule.
I didn't expect the Lions to be quite this good — they have a nice collection of young talent and a 9-3 record is nothing to sneeze at. But three years is an eternity in the NFL and with the extra draft capital Brad Holmes was able to acquire a few weeks into his job as general manager, the expectation absolutely was that the Lions would be contending for a division title in Year 3.
The one area I and I'm sure others missed on when we projected ahead way back in 2021 was what Goff would mean to this franchise. At the time, I thought the Lions would have to use one of their high draft picks to take a quarterback, and that person would be the one to lead them to the playoffs.
Goff has turned out to be better than just about anyone (and, yes, I'm including people inside the building) thought, and he's a big reason why the Lions are where they are today.
A. Here's a great stat courtesy of the NFL's Next Gen Stats: Williams hit a top speed of 20.7 mph on his 19-yard touchdown run Sunday. He's reached at least 20 mph on four of his 16 career touches, the highest percentage of any player in the NFL since 2022.
I point that out to say Williams really was flying on that end around, "pure gasoline" as Dan Campbell said. He probably couldn't clear the end zone; that's longer than the Olympic long jump record. But it definitely looked like it Sunday.
Any reason we aren’t seeing Buggs given the D line struggles? — @Rook_SpartyOn
A. Isaiah Buggs was a nice contributor up front last season, but he wouldn't do much to solve the Lions' biggest issue of an inconsistent pass rush. He had the first sack of his career last year and has one quarterback hit in the six games he's played this season.
Buggs wasn't around much this offseason after signing his contract and he's fallen out of favor with coaches. It's possible he returns to the lineup now that Alim McNeill is out, but he's been active once in the past five games and I don't think he has much future on this team with Quinton Bohanna and Benito Jones playing defensive tackle, the recent addition of Tyson Alualu and Levi Onwuzurike potentially offering more as a pass rusher in McNeill's absence.
Next up: Bears
Matchup: Lions (9-3) at Chicago (4-8).
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday; Soldier Field, Chicago.
TV/radio: Fox; WXYT-FM (97.1).
Line: Lions by 3.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions mailbag: Predicting end-of-season record, playoffs