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Could Detroit Lions Be a Sleeper Team to Win NFC North?

The Bill Simmons podcast explored the chances the Detroit Lions could unseat the Green Bay Packers to win the division.

The 2022 NFL schedule has been released and the Detroit Lions know how their season will be mapped out.

Detroit has the fifth-easiest schedule in terms of opponent’s 2021 winning percentage, with only the four teams making up the NFC East ranking below them. Coincidentally, the Lions will play all four of those squads in 2022.

With the slate looking the way it does, fans and pundits alike are optimistic about what Dan Campbell’s second season as head coach could look like for the Lions.

Speaking on the Bill Simmons Podcast, analyst Warren Sharp said Detroit could be a contender to win the NFC North Division in 2022.

“I think one team that’s interesting, although this would be a major longshot and basically you’re needing something to fall apart with the (Green Bay) Packers’ early schedule here, and that could potentially be the Detroit Lions coming out of nowhere,” Sharp said.

Sharp, who operates Sharp Football, created a metric called ‘Rest Edge,’ which measures the advantage a team has over opponents based on the amount of rest they obtain. In 2022, Detroit will have a net of 11 more rest days than their opponents.

This mark ranks second in the NFL according to Sharp’s method, behind only the Buffalo Bills’ net 12 advantage.

While the analyst’s metric backs up his claim, there’s more to like in his eyes about the Lions moving forward.

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“We know that I really like their rest advantage, they also have the fifth-easiest schedule based upon who they play this season,” Sharp said. “They’re a team, look, with the Lions you wanna swing big with these guys. Either you don’t want to back them or you want to back them to have a really turnaround season.”

Detroit finished 3-13-1 in 2021, the first year in which Campbell was at the helm. Despite the difficult stretch, there is optimism amongst outsiders that the culture brewing inside team headquarters could indeed translate to success.

A major question is the future of the team at quarterback. Heading into 2022, Jared Goff appears entrenched as the starting quarterback despite concerns about his longevity. In the eyes of Sharp, he could have a much-improved season with the weapons added to the offense during the offseason.

“We know Jared Goff has major limitations from an upside perspective, but with reasonable enough coaching and just level play, his stats are fine,” Sharp said. “They added a lot of pieces around him and one of the most important things for a quarterback, especially one we don’t love, is a good offensive line, good protection, and that’s one of the things that they really have there.”

Simmons added that the addition of rookie receiver Jameson Williams and another year of Amon-Ra St. Brown out wide could make Goff’s improvements at the end of the 2021 season more than just a fluke.

“I thought the Goff numbers down the stretch were pretty intriguing,” Simmons said. “I’m not a giant Goff fan, but he has succeeded before. I mean, he had a lot of good weapons around him (in Los Angeles) and obviously Sean McVay couldn’t wait to get rid of him, but to me he’s at least more of a certainty than (New York Jets quarterback) Zach Wilson is.”

For reference, Goff finished the season with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. After Campbell took over play-calling duties in Week 10, Goff closed the year in a groove throwing 11 scores against just two picks.

Both Sharp and Simmons agreed that the Lions are worth betting to either make the playoffs or win the NFC North division outright. Sharp pointed out that Green Bay, the current favorite and 2021 division winner, lost an important piece of the offense in wide receiver Davante Adams