First off, apologies for my sketchiness in the past week. I went through some personal stuff that I won't get into, and I've been traveling, spending time with family and haven't had much time to write nor think about the Lions. I luckily did get a chance to watch the game on Sunday, which I will talk about......now.
Flashback to three weeks ago. The Lions were 3-0, with two decisive wins and an epic comeback win against a division rival. Matthew Stafford was lighting up the scoreboard with nine touchdowns and an impressive 110.7 passer rating. Not only was I believing that Stafford was a top five quarterback in the league, but I was claiming that it was sacreligious for a Lions fan not to be sporting a Stafford jersey (which I still do not possess). Stafford was poised, confident and decisive in his actions.
Now before I get into this, I feel I have to preface my opinion by saying that I think Stafford either is, or will shortly be, a top ten quarterback in the league. I feel I need to say this, because most Lions fans are protecting Stafford from any sort of criticism with the devotion of parents defending their children. I love Stafford. From the moment against Cleveland when he ignored the fact that his shoulder was fragmented pieces of flesh and that the Lions were 1-8. All be damned, he would lead the Lions to their most unbelievable win in decades. And since then, he's only led the Lions to two other 20+ point comeback wins. He's got an incredible arm and he's capable of making throws I thought only the FOX robot could make.
But he needs to step his game up.
In the past three weeks, all of the things that made him look elite in the first few weeks have made him look awfully mortal. He's indecisive, he's untrusting of his offensive line, he's failing to see defenders who dropped into coverage, and he's made our offense look....stoppable. You want some stats? I got your stats, right here.*
Now, obviously, the statistics in the past three weeks are not exactly terrible. In fact, they may even be considered slightly above average. But these aren't the kind of numbers we've come to expect from Stafford. We didn't all fall in love with Stafford because he was "above average".
Of course, it's important to put these statistics in their proper context. The first three games were against Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Minnesota. By passer rating allowed, those teams are ranked 26th, 28th and 16th respectively. In comparison, the Lions week 4-6 opponents (Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco) rank 12th, 27th and 6th. Clearly better, but not by a lot.
While some credit goes to the opponents' defenses, Stafford will need to start playing to his competition. The Lions have one of the most brutal schedules left in the NFL (6th hardest according to Football Outsiders). It will be difficult to win the division with Green Bay well on their way to at least 12 wins, so the Lions will likely have to win at least 10 games to reach the playoffs. Only being five wins away from that goal, it may not seem like a difficult task, but if Stafford doesn't improve against the likes of Green Bay (X2) , New Orleans, Atlanta, Oakland, San Diego, etc, he may be on the outside looking in come January.
*I grabbed my crotch while typing that. Yeah, I've got that kind of typing skills.