'Why not us?' QB Jared Goff expects Detroit Lions to win the NFC North this fall

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A winless preseason has not dimmed Jared Goff's optimism for how good the Detroit Lions will be this fall.

"We feel really good," Goff said Monday. "I’ve talked about this at length. Internally, our expectations are win games and first of all win the division. That’s always the expectations, win the division and then go from there. Externally, couldn’t care less and honestly don’t really know what it would be."

The Lions have not made the playoffs since 2016 and are widely considered long shots to end that streak this year.

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) smiles on the field  before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on August 21, 2021.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) smiles on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on August 21, 2021.

They have a new coach in Dan Campbell, a new quarterback in Goff and are coming off a season in which they finished last in the NFL in points and yards allowed.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have given the Lions better chances of landing the No. 1 pick in next year's draft than of winning the NFC North, but Goff insisted he is blissfully unaware of what people think of the Lions outside the locker room.

"Of course, it’s a new regime, new staff, they weren’t very good last year. It’s a whole new thing and I understand it," Goff said. "But just like every other team in this league, there’s expectations, and I don’t know what the stat is, but every year there’s new teams in the playoff. Every year there’s teams that were in the playoffs last year that aren’t and why not us? Why can’t we be that one that wasn’t in last year that is this year?"

At least one NFL team has gone worst-to-first in its division in 17 of the 19 years since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002.

For the Lions to make that jump this fall, much will hinge on Goff and the offense.

Goff played just 22 snaps over two series this preseason, but he said he is where he needs to be heading into the Lions' Sept. 12 season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff throws a football to fans after training camp practice in Allen Park on Saturday, July 31, 2021.
Lions quarterback Jared Goff throws a football to fans after training camp practice in Allen Park on Saturday, July 31, 2021.

Before coming to Detroit, Goff, who spent five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, had not played in a preseason game since 2017. He ranks as the second-winningest quarterback in the NFL over that time, behind only Tom Brady.

"That was the approach taken in L.A. and it worked for us, and then here we played in the first game and I feel like it’s worked," he said. "We’ve supplemented it well in practice and gotten the work we need in, and we all trust Dan and think the plan is great and we’re ready to go."

The Lions failed to top 20 points in any of their three preseason games, but Goff said the team, like most in the NFL, was purposefully vanilla.

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Neither T.J. Hockenson (shoulder) nor D'Andre Swift (groin) played a snap this preseason, though both practiced Monday and expected back for Week 1.

And Goff's two possessions ended in a three-and-out and a field goal.

He downplayed concerns about not being on the same page with some of his key offensive weapons as the start of the regular season approaches, and said he feels "great (and) ready to go" personally.

"It starts one week at a time," Goff said. "But internally our expectations are as high as anyone else."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff: We expect to win NFC North