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4 Detroit Lions

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Fans like the idea that a physically limited quarterback can succeed with brains and accuracy. He can, but to a much lesser extent than they realize. In the NFL, the stronger a QB's arm, the more throws that are available to him. If you don't believe it, take a close look at the Lions. You'll see an offense that's defined by its quarterback's cannon arm. MATTHEW STAFFORD continues to make the big-time, tight-window passes that he has always made—he's especially deft throwing deep outside against Cover 2—but in coordinator JIM BOB COOTER'S system, we've seen the 29-year-old QB play with more maturity. His bold throws are now also good decisions. Cooter has helped Stafford by using straightforward, static formations. The presnap stillness gives Stafford a clearer picture of the defense.

• Here's hoping third-year running back AMEER ABDULLAH stays healthy—he went on injured reserve after Week 2 last year with a left Lisfranc injury. With Abdullah and THEO RIDDICK (the best inside receiving back in football), Detroit has two dynamic backfield weapons who can create their own space. Their shifty style of running fits Cooter's single-back spread formations.

• TAYLOR DECKER tore his right labrum in June, sidelining him for four to six months, and that hurts. The injury to one of the league's best young left tackles—Decker has steady feet and strong hands—leaves the Lions with unappetizing options: reserves COREY ROBINSON and CORNELIUS LUCAS and former Rams bust GREG ROBINSON.

• Last year opposing offenses completed 72.7% of their passes against Detroit, the highest rate in the NFL's modern era. Surprisingly, the secondary never looked that bad on film. The corners, led by DARIUS SLAY, were solid, and there was depth and versatility at safety. The real problem was that this D rarely made big plays, and that almost always stems from an ineffective pass rush. Indeed, the Lions ranked 30th in sacks.

•Defensive end ZIGGY ANSAH is worlds better than his two sacks in 2016 suggest. The fifth-year pro, long and athletic, thrives on stunts and twists. Ansah could play at the same level as last season and wind up with 12 sacks.

"IN ABDULLAH AND RIDDICK, THEY HAVE TWO BACKFIELD WEAPONS WHO CAN CREATE THEIR OWN SPACE."

SI'S 2017 PREDICTION

5--11

2016 RECORD 9--7

SEPT. 10

VS. ARI

SEPT. 18

MONDAY

AT NYG

SEPT. 24

VS. ATL

OCT. 1

AT MIN

OCT. 8

VS. CAR

OCT. 15

AT NO

BYE

OCT. 29

VS. PIT

NOV. 6

MONDAY

AT GB

NOV. 12

VS. CLE

NOV. 19

AT CHI

NOV. 23

THURSDAY

VS. MIN

DEC. 3

AT BAL

DEC. 10

AT TB

DEC. 16

SATURDAY

VS. CHI

DEC. 24

AT CIN

DEC. 31

VS. GB

Position Rankings

QB

9

SKILL

23

OL

17

FRONT 7

27

Weakness

DBs

26

ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400

99 ZIGGY ANSAH DE

117 MATTHEW STAFFORD QB

128 T.J. LANG G

173 DARIUS SLAY CB

183 TAYLOR DECKER T

188 RICK WAGNER T

238 ERIC EBRON TE

253 GOLDEN TATE WR

259 GLOVER QUIN FS

288 MARVIN JONES WR

294 HALOTI NGATA DT

306 THEO RIDDICK RB

343 TAHIR WHITEHEAD LB

344 TAVON WILSON SS

351 KERRY HYDER DE [OUT FOR SEASON]

382 ARMONTY BRYANT DE

OUT FOR SEASON