How the Detroit Lions Got to 3-0

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The Lions are 3-0, one of only three teams (Green Bay and Buffalo are the others) in the NFL to reach that mark (the Washington Redskins would join the list with a win tonight on Monday Night Football). But how, exactly, have the Lions started off so strong? They’ve done it by simultaneously having the one of the best performing offenses and defenses in the league.

Detroit is the only team to sit in the top five in points scored per game (4th, 33.7) and points allowed per game (3rd, 15.3). In fact only the Baltimore Ravens join the Lions if we expand the selection to look at teams in the top ten in both categories.

And, although it has felt like it at times, this isn’t just some fluke where they’ve been allowing tons of yards on defense only to hold the opponent to field goals at the end (a sign that things could quickly get worse). The Lions are sixth in the NFL in total defense (yards allowed per game) with 301. The offense ranks tenth with an average of 400 yards gained per game. Only the Dallas Cowboys (who’ve only played two games thus far) and San Diego Chargers join the Lions in receiving a top ten ranking in yards gained and allowed.

Detroit has also been big winners in the turnover battle. Detroit’s +6 turnover margin ties them for the best mark in the NFL with San Francisco and Baltimore. No team has turned the ball over fewer times than Detroit (2 interceptions, 0 fumbles lost), and only Baltimore (10) and Buffalo (9) have recorded more takeaway’s than Detroit (8).

But I think we need to take the cautious approach going forward. I don’t necessarily expect the Lions to maintain a +2 turnover per game average, and while the defense is much improved over a year ago, I don’t expect that they’ll end up as a top five defense in the NFL. The schedule to date has been a bit soft (although road games at Tampa Bay and at Minnesota are not easy wins), and they’ll face a tougher road ahead.

Still, these numbers give us good reason to be proud of our hometown team. The turnaround is definitely for real. They’re winning games not because they’re lucky, it’s because they’ve been playing really, really well.

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