Lions vs Raiders Game Preview
Detroit and Oakland clash in a game between two dysfunctional franchises looking to right the ship. The Raiders retrogressed last season winning half the games they did in 2016 while the Lions duplicated their record but still missed the playoffs.
Both franchises have combined for only four playoff appearances in the last 16 years and have no playoff wins. Neither team made the playoffs from 2003 to 2011. But with promising quarterbacks, they are hoping for better luck soon.
The good news is that the Lions completed back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1994-1995 when Barry Sanders led them. The bad news is, they still haven’t won a playoff game in over 26 years. And they have Matt Stafford, one of the game’s best quarterbacks.
Stafford just turned 30 and is entering his prime. He can single-handedly carry the offence but the defence is another thing. Hiring Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as their new coach is a step in the right direction.
The Raiders ended their 15-year playoff in emphatic fashion when they won 12 games in 2016 only to go back to losing last season. Injuries to quarterback Derek Carr and key players on the offence slow the team down while the defence completely fell apart.
Jon Gruden will have the tough task of turning this ship around after ten years on the sidelines as an analyst. It’s curious what happens to this team if they are more like 2017 or 2016 or somewhere in the middle.
On paper, the Raiders are a much better team than the Lions. They have some depth issues with their defensive line and their new kicker is iffy but they should be the favourites.
Lions vs Raiders Head-to-Head Records
These two teams have met a dozen times and are deadlocked at six wins apiece. The Lions have won their last four meetings but prior to that, the Raiders won four in a row. Detroit took their first-ever meeting in 1970, doubling up the Raiders 28-14.
Neither franchise has achieved a lot of success in recent years. From 2003 to 2015, the Lions swept the Raiders in all four meetings. Detroit was already a better team from 2011 onwards but still soundly defeated Oakland when they were a losing team in the early 2000s.
When the Raiders relocated to Los Angeles in the 80s, they swept the Lions. These were the prime years of the franchise. They won two Super Bowls and were a staple in pop culture. That didn’t last too long, unfortunately, thanks to mercurial owner Al Davis moving the team back-and-forth.
Both teams are now better off than their early 2000s versions but have still a long way to go. With Stafford anchoring the Lions and Carr leading the Raiders, any future meetings between them will at least produce watchable football games.
Detroit Lions Recent History
Before the new Cleveland Browns came along, the Lions were the black sheep of the NFL. As a franchise, the Lions have only one playoff win since the Super Bowl era and has constantly endured long stretches of losing seasons including the early 2000s where they infamously became the first team to go 0-16 in a season.
The good thing that came out of that season was Stafford, who the Lions took first overall in 2009. They finally returned to the playoffs in 2011 also winning double-digit games for the first time since 1995 although they were quickly eliminated in the playoffs. They would return to the playoffs twice more with the latest in 2016 but once again fail to win a game.
Things are looking up for Detroit. They had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over 20 years and are now led by a coach who comes from a winning culture. It sounds crazy but these Lions could be perennial playoff contenders.
Oakland Raiders Recent History
The Raiders were the AFC version of the Lions in the 2000s. After being on the losing end of one of the most lopsided Super Bowls, Oakland would go 13 straight seasons without posting a winning record including ten where they only won five games or less.
During this span, the Raiders went through an NFL-record nine head coaches. They finally settled with Jack Del Rio in 2015 and along with hot prospects like Carr, Amari Cooper (WR), and Khalil Mack (LB), the Raiders finally returned to the playoffs on the strength of 12 wins. This was their best record in 17 seasons.
It would be short-lived as injuries and changes to the coaching staff doomed the Raiders to their dysfunctional old selves. But heading into the future, the Raiders are healthier and have better coaches. More wins are on the horizon.
Detroit Lions Outlook
The Lions have plenty of work to do if they hope to remain relevant in the tough NFC North. They are solid on offence but need to bolster their offensive line and running game if they are to prolong their franchise quarterback’s career. Stafford has gradually improved but needs to stay healthy.
Defence needs even more work. Patricia is a defensive guru but he needs the right pieces. The Lions are soft on the secondary, particularly at safety. They have Pro Bowlers like Ziggy Ansah (DE) and Darius Slay (CB) but need to provide even more depth including their front-seven.
Even with all these needs, the Lions have a good enough team that can at least post a winning record. They’ll need more than that, however, to make the playoffs in the competitive NFC. But it’s a start.
Oakland Raiders Outlook
This is one of the hardest teams to predict. On one hand, the Raiders have plenty of talent on both ends of the ball. On offence, they have Carr, Cooper, Marshawn Lynch at running back, and a solid offensive line. They also added receivers Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson.
They also added Greg Olson, an impeccable quarterback coach as their new shot-caller on offence. Then on defence, they added a slew of veterans on top of drafting solid prospects for the defensive line. This team has almost everything. But they are still the Raiders.
Gruden hasn’t coached in a decade and rumours persist he isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with upper management. Injuries and off-field issues somehow find a way to ruin some of the best players the franchise has had, historically. Here’s hoping none of these actually affect the team and they can be Super Bowl contenders for real.
The Raiders will roll out Connor Cook, who is actually a decent backup and has shown reliability but had the misfortune of getting owned by the Texans in the 2016 playoffs. He’ll be facing journeyman Matt Cassell, who Detroit just signed in the offseason.
Both the Lions and Raiders have talented offences but are spotty in some spots. The Lions have a solid offensive line but lack depth, especially at guard. Their running game will struggle though they hope second-round pick Kerryon Johnson and free agent signing LeGarrette Blount can create a much-needed spark.
The Raiders have decent front-seven but are a but lacking in the middle. They will need to rely on rookies like PJ Hall and Maurice Hurst to provide valuable snaps. When these two units go against each other, they almost cancel out due to their inexperience.
Oakland still has the edge. Outside their defensive line and special teams, they have better depth than the Lions, who will be exposed on defence.