Return to playoffs hinges on one shoulder
That four-game win streak to end the season is one reason Steve Wyche of NFL.com expects the Lions to be in the playoffs this coming season.
In the NFC, Wyche predicts that Detroit, Tampa Bay and St. Louis will be the three teams back in the playoffs. The teams that were in this year that he doesn’t expect to see return are Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle.
Here’s Wyche’s reasoning for the Lions: “I'm not kidding, but everything hinges on QB Matthew Stafford staying on the field. I'm pegging him to do so and for Detroit to be a wild-card team. The Lions finished on a four-game winning streak and have learned what it takes to compete. They lost six games (Detroit finished 6-10) by five points or less. Those are games in which Stafford could have made the difference. The last two rookie classes have been solid -- especially defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh -- and general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have shown that they've got things on the right track.’’
There you go. I don’t disagree. The 6-10 record would have been at least 8-8 if Stafford had remained healthy.
He is the whole key to the 2011 season too.
(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)