Detroit Lions: Power Rankings

The Detroit Lions didn’t score an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2009. As a result, they took a small dip in the latest ESPN Power Rankings.

The Lions dropped from No. 6 to No. 7 – although it is still the highest the Lions have been ranked in Week 12 of a season since the inception of the rankings in 2002. It also ties the highest Detroit has ever been ranked from this point forward in a season – matching the No. 7 ranking entering the last week of the season in 2011.

And this week the Lions have a chance to really improve their ranking as they take on the No. 1 Patriots.

As for my rankings, Arizona won again so the Cardinals remain at No. 1 – and will do so until they lose another game. New England and Green Bay might be playing better than the Cardinals right now, though. As for the Lions, I dropped them from No. 4 to No. 8 – mostly because the offensive issues are a big concern right now.

But I’ll reiterate here what I’ve said multiple places: Even a loss Sunday to New England won’t change my thought process on this team. Figuring out the Lions' fortitude will come after Sunday against the Patriots, when they have three straight home games.

As always, last week’s ballot rankings are in parentheses as I present my ballot below.

1. Arizona (1)

2. New England (2)

3. Green Bay (9)

4. Kansas City (10)

5. Dallas (6)

6. Denver (3)

7. Philadelphia (5)

8. Detroit (4)

9. Seattle (7)

10. Indianapolis (8)

11. San Francisco (14)

12. Pittsburgh (12)

13. Cincinnati (17)

14. Miami (13)

15. San Diego (15)

16. Baltimore (16)

17. Cleveland (11)

18. Houston (19)

19. St. Louis (23)

20. Buffalo (18)

21. Atlanta (24)

22. Chicago (25)

23. New Orleans (20)

24. Minnesota (21)

25. Carolina (22)

26. New York Giants (26)

27. Tennessee (29)

28. Tampa Bay (30)

29. New York Jets (28)

30. Washington (27)

31. Jacksonville (31)

32. Oakland (32)
They are close to making a breakthrough now and in the next two weeks, with games at Arizona and New England, the Detroit Lions have the opportunity to make a big move toward the top of the ESPN Power Rankings.

But for now, after their third straight come-from-behind win to improve to 7-2 this season, the Lions are holding steady at No. 6 in the latest rankings.

It marks the third straight week Detroit has been at No. 6, the most consistent three-week stretch in the rankings for Detroit since since 2011, when the Lions were at No. 4 from Weeks 4-6 before settling into the bottom half of the top 10 for the rest of the season.

Right now, though, the Lions are ranked higher than they have ever been at any point during the second half of any season since the rankings began in 2002. Pretty crazy stuff.

As for me? The Lions held form in my rankings, staying at No. 4 for the second straight week. As always, my ballot is below with the prior week's rank in parentheses. There wasn't much movement in my rankings this week because teams are starting to form fuller bodies of work.

1. Arizona (1)
2. New England (2)
3. Denver (3)
4. Detroit (4)
5. Philadelphia (5)
6. Dallas (6)
7. Seattle (7)
8. Indianapolis (9)
9. Green Bay (12)
10. Kansas City (11)
11. Cleveland (15)
12. Pittsburgh (8)
13. Miami (13)
14. San Francisco (19)
15. San Diego (17)
16. Baltimore (18)
17. Cincinnati (10)
18. Buffalo (14)
19. Houston (21)
20. New Orleans (16)
21. Minnesota (20)
22. Carolina (23)
23. St. Louis (22)
24. Atlanta (26)
25. Chicago (25)
26. New York Giants (24)
27. Washington (27)
28. New York Jets (29)
29. Tennessee (28)
30. Tampa Bay (30)
31. Jacksonville (31)
32. Oakland (32)
The Detroit Lions haven't been in the top 10 since Weeks 9 through 11 of last season and even then, it has been a rarity.

Yet the Lions remained static this week in the ESPN Power Rankings, holding at the No. 6 position after not playing last Sunday. The next three weeks, though, offer the Lions a chance to make some major, major moves. Detroit plays three teams in the top 13, starting with No. 13 Miami on Sunday and then at No. 2 Arizona and No. 1 New England.

Win two of those games and the Lions may just end up in the top 5 or higher. And while the power rankings are good for chatter and debate, winning two of the next three would also seal Detroit's legitimacy as both a contender for the divisional title and possibly the NFC in general.

That's how close the Lions are.

Also, my personal ballot returns this week after a two-week hiatus due to the London trip and time zone/travel differential. Due to this, I don't have last week's vote in parentheses. But I had the Cardinals at No. 1 -- best record and they look the part of a team with offensive strength and a good defense -- and Detroit higher than my colleagues, all the way at No. 4.

1. Arizona
2. New England
3. Denver
4. Detroit
5. Philadelphia
6. Dallas
7. Seattle
8. Pittsburgh
9. Indianapolis
10. Cincinnati
11. Kansas City
12. Green Bay
13. Miami
14. Buffalo
15. Cleveland
16. New Orleans
17. San Diego
18. Baltimore
19. San Francisco
20. Minnesota
21. Houston
22. St. Louis
23. Carolina
24. New York Giants
25. Chicago
26. Atlanta
27. Washington
28. Tennessee
29. New York Jets
30. Tampa Bay
31. Jacksonville
32. Oakland
The Detroit Lions are halfway through their season, and at 6-2 they have reached one of their highest points ever in the ESPN Power Rankings.

The Lions jumped four places to No. 6 on Tuesday, the highest the team has been since Week 7 of the 2011 season -- the last time Detroit made the playoffs. It is also the team's second-highest ranking since 2002, when the rankings came into existence.

Detroit was as high as No. 4 during the 2011 season, the only time the team has been in the top 5.

The Lions are as high as they are now in part due to their record and in part to that record despite significant injuries on both offense and defense. Detroit has been without these players for at least one game this season due to injury or suspension: Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Stephen Tulloch, James Ihedigbo, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, Eric Ebron, C.J. Mosley and likely moving forward, Nick Fairley.

That is a lot of key contributors and starters who have missed time for a team playing as well as it has so far this season.

Also, my personal ballot returns next week. Being over in England, I was unable to submit a ballot again this week. That will be the last time that happens.
LONDON -- The Detroit Lions have the top-ranked defense in the NFL and after two weeks outside the top 10 of the Power Rankings, the Lions are back pushing for a spot among the elite in the league.

The Lions are up to No. 10 this week, the fifth-highest team in the NFC and the second-highest team in the NFC North behind Green Bay, a team on a tear since losing to the Lions in Week 3.

Detroit knows how close it is, though, to being even better than its 5-2 record. The Lions are still No. 1 in the NFL in two categories: defensive QBR (31.8) and total defense (290.3)

"We feel like right now we're in a good position," safety Glover Quin said. "Obviously, we feel like we could be undefeated. We've left some games out there, and we still haven't played a total, total game. So we always feel like no one can beat us if we don't beat ourselves and if we play our game, it's going to be hard for a team to beat us .

"With the weapons we have on offense, the guys we have on defense and our special teams, we feel like we have a complete team."

This is what the Lions are trying to continue in London on Sunday when they face Atlanta at Wembley Stadium.

Just a note -- due to travel to London and the scheduling of events here, my power rankings ballot returns next week.
The Detroit Lions moved back into the top half of the ESPN Power Rankings this week their largely because of its top-ranked defense.

The defense has carried the Lions throughout this season as the offense continues to work itself out under first-year coordinator Joe Lombardi and the kicking game tries to find a player who can add points consistently.

The defense, though, has stifled almost every opponent it has faced, leading to a No. 13 overall ranking and a chance to move up the next two weeks with games against New Orleans and Atlanta.

As always, my ballot is below with the prior week’s rank in parentheses. Yes, I have the Lions lower than they were ranked, but when two of three phases are a concern, that makes it tough to have a team too high in the rankings.

1. Denver (2)

2. Philadelphia (3)

3. San Diego (4)

4. Dallas (5)

5. Indianapolis (6)

6. Seattle (1)

7. Arizona (8)

8. San Francisco (10)

9. Green Bay (11)

10. Cincinnati (7)

11. New England (13)

12. Carolina (12)

13. Baltimore (14)

14. Detroit (17)

15. Cleveland (19)

16. Chicago (23)

17. New York Giants (9)

18. Buffalo (16)

19. Houston (15)

20. Pittsburgh (18)

21. New Orleans (21)

22. Atlanta (20)

23. Miami (22)

24. Kansas City (25)

25. Minnesota (24)

26. Tennessee (30)

27. St. Louis (26)

28. Washington (27)

29. New York Jets (28)

30. Tampa Bay (29)

31. Oakland (32)

32. Jacksonville (31)
The Detroit Lions are still in the top half of the NFL, but they are dropping.

Detroit fell six spots in this week's ESPN Power Rankings to No. 14 after a 17-14 loss to Buffalo where the Lions missed three field goals and cut their second kicker of the season, Alex Henery, the next day.

More concerning than Detroit's kicking situation has been portions of the Lions' offense. The run game has been inconsistent and the offensive line has struggled to protect Matthew Stafford, allowing 17 sacks. Those issues, more than the loss, are why the Lions dropped a little bit this week.

As always, my ballot for the week is below -- and I dropped Detroit 10 spots to No. 17. Last week's ranking (from me) is in the parentheses.

1. Seattle (1)
2. Denver (3)
3. Philadelphia (4)
4. San Diego (6)
5. Dallas (10)
6. Indianapolis (12)
7. Cincinnati (2)
8. Arizona (3)
9. New York Giants (19)
10. San Francisco (18)
11. Green Bay (15)
12. Carolina (21)
13. New England (23)
14. Baltimore (8)
15. Houston (9)
16. Buffalo (20)
17. Detroit (7)
18. Pittsburgh (14)
19. Cleveland (25)
20. Atlanta (11)
21. New Orleans (24)
22. Miami (22)
23. Chicago (16)
24. Minnesota (17)
25. Kansas City (13)
26. St. Louis (30)
27. Washington (27)
28. New York Jets (26)
29. Tampa Bay (29)
30. Tennessee (28)
31. Jacksonville (31)
32. Oakland (32)
Apparently colleague Mike Sando is not the only person who believes the Detroit Lions may be for real this season.

The latest ESPN Power Rankings would confirm that.

Detroit bounced up to No. 8 in the latest rankings, the Lions' highest spot since the end of the 2011. In fact, Detroit has only been as high as No. 8 in three seasons since ESPN began doing Power Rankings in 2002: The 10th week of the 2007 season, a good chunk of 2011 and this week.

It is the highest the Lions have been since Week 11 of last season, when they were ranked No. 9 prior to the team's collapse to a 7-9 record and Jim Schwartz's eventual firing.

I had the Lions at No. 7 in my ballot, which is below like it is every week. A reminder that my rankings from last week are in parentheses.

1. Seattle (1)

2. Cincinnati (3)

3. Arizona (4)

4. Philadelphia (2)

5. Denver (5)

6. San Diego (7)

7. Detroit (10)

8. Baltimore (14)

9. Houston (15)

10. Dallas (18)

11. Atlanta (6)

12. Indianapolis (16)

13. Kansas City (23)

14. Pittsburgh (11)

15. Green Bay (20)

16. Chicago (8)

17. Minnesota (26)

18. San Francisco (17)

19. New York Giants (25)

20. Buffalo (13)

21. Carolina (9)

22. Miami (27)

23. New England (12)

24. New Orleans (19)

25. Cleveland (24)

26. New York Jets (21)

27. Washington (22)

28. Tennessee (28)

29. Tampa Bay (32)

30. St. Louis (31)

31.Jacksonville (29)

32. Oakland (30)
The Detroit Lions are once again making a move up the latest ESPN Power Rankings.

After beating Green Bay, 19-7, the Lions are now at No. 12 in the rankings, comprised of ESPN analysts. Detroit is the No. 2 team in the NFC North behind No. 8 Chicago and the seventh team overall from the NFC.

The Lions have an opportunity to continue making moves up the rankings the next two weeks as they travel to New York to face the Jets and then will host Buffalo at home. Both of those games are winnable and if they do both, there's no reason they Lions shouldn't be a top-10 club -- especially with the defense currently at the top of the league.

As always, I put my ballot below for both scrutiny and accountability. So have at it.

1. Seattle (3)
2. Philadelphia (2)
3. Cincinnati (5)
4. Arizona (6)
5. Denver (1)
6. Atlanta (8)
7. San Diego (14)
8. Chicago (11)
9. Carolina (4)
10. Detroit (15)
11. Pittsburgh (21)
12. New England (17)
13. Buffalo (9)
14. Baltimore (16)
15. Houston (10)
16. Indianapolis (13)
17. San Francisco (12)
18. Dallas (26)
19. New Orleans (25)
20. Green Bay (7)
21. New York Jets (18)
22. Washington (24)
23. Kansas City (29)
24. Cleveland (22)
25. New York Giants (32)
26. Minnesota (19)
27. Miami (20)
28. Tennessee (23)
29. Jacksonville (30)
30. Oakland (31)
31. St. Louis (27)
32. Tampa Bay (28)
The Detroit Lions looked a little bit like the team that struggled through the end of last season instead of one that annihilated the New York Giants in the season opener. So while the real Lions team continues to sort themselves out, Detroit took the expected fall in the Power Rankings on Tuesday.

Detroit dropped to No. 18 in the latest ESPN Power Rankings, down from No. 13 last week and back where the team was during the first rankings of the preseason.

Personally, I had Detroit a little bit higher at No. 15, down five spots from No. 10 last week. Below, as always, is my weekly ballot, along with last week’s ballot in parentheses.

1. Denver (2)

2. Philadelphia (3)

3. Seattle (1)

4. Carolina (9)

5. Cincinnati (7)

6. Arizona (11)

7. Green Bay (8)

8. Atlanta (4)

9. Buffalo (17)

10. Houston (21)

11. Chicago (22)

12. San Francisco (5)

13. Indianapolis (6)

14. San Diego (19)

15. Detroit (10)

16. Baltimore (27)

17. New England (16)

18. New York Jets (20)

19. Minnesota (15)

20. Miami (19)

21. Pittsburgh (12)

22. Cleveland (25)

23. Tennessee (18)

24. Washington (26)

25. New Orleans (13)

26. Dallas (29)

27. St. Louis (32)

28.Tampa Bay (23)

29. Kansas City (28)

30. Jacksonville (24)

31. Oakland (31)

32. New York Giants (30)
After one week, the Detroit Lions are starting to make an impression on our many voters in ESPN’s weekly Power Rankings.

The Lions, who were sitting right in the middle of the NFL at No. 16 last week, bumped up to No. 13 this week in the latest poll after beating the New York Giants pretty handily, 35-14, on Monday night. The Lions were particularly impressive on offense, where Matthew Stafford looked more comfortable and more in control than at any point during his career.

Not only that, but Detroit’s defense did a good job pressuring Eli Manning (two sacks, nine quarterback hits) and a banged-up secondary picked off Manning twice. There’s also this: The Lions now have a bona fide second defensive star in linebacker DeAndre Levy, who had 10 tackles and an interception on Monday night.

Below was my ballot for the Power Rankings (and my previous rankings in parentheses):

1. Seattle (1)

2. Denver (2)

3. Philadelphia (9)

4. Atlanta (18)

5. San Francisco (7)

6. Indianapolis (5)

7. Cincinnati (8)

8. Green Bay (4)

9. Carolina (10)

10. Detroit (16)

11. Arizona (11)

12. Pittsburgh (12)

13. New Orleans (6)

14. Miami (19)

15. Minnesota (24)

16. New England (3)

17. Buffalo (31)

18. Tennessee (26)

19. San Diego (13)

20. New York Jets (27)

21. Houston (29)

22. Chicago (14)

23. Tampa Bay (17)

24. Jacksonville (28)

25. Cleveland (30)

26. Washington (21)

27. Baltimore (20)

28. Kansas City (15)

29. Dallas (23)

30. New York Giants (25)

31. Oakland (32)

32. St. Louis (22)
The first ESPN power rankings of the season are out and the Detroit Lions are right where you'd expect them to be -- in the middle of the pack.

The Lions came in 18th in the initial rankings, nestled right between two teams they face this season: Atlanta at No. 17 and Tampa Bay at No. 19. As one of the power rankings voters, I actually had the Lions a shade higher than the consensus, dropping them in at No. 16 (my power rankings vote is below).

Talent-wise, there is little question Detroit should be higher on this list. Yet there are the same old questions when it comes to the Lions. Can this new coaching staff turn the consistent mediocrity of the franchise into something else? Will the penalties ever stop? Will Matthew Stafford take the steps he needs to in order to become a great quarterback?

How do the new schemes fit? Can the secondary hold up?

Just with those questions alone, I think you get my point that there are just too many unknowns about the Lions at this point to really put them any higher than the middle of the pack.

Here's how I'm going to handle my vote every week: I'm not going to base things just on where a team was the week before. I'm going to take into account who they played, how they played, and where it fit into the schedule. So there might be some radical shifting from week to week, but I'll be open for any discussion in the comments, etc.

So have at it, and remember, this is the preseason version so a lot can change by next week:

3.New England
4.Green Bay
6.New Orleans
7.San Francisco
13.San Diego
15.Kansas City
17.Tampa Bay
22.St. Louis
25. Giants
27. Jets
The main key for success for the Detroit Lions this season is remarkably simple and has been the main focus of the franchise since it fired coach Jim Schwartz following the 2013 season.

From hiring new head coach Jim Caldwell, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter to signing Golden Tate, re-signing Brandon Pettigrew and drafting Eric Ebron, that focus has been giving quarterback Matthew Stafford everything he could possibly need to succeed.

Stafford has to use those tools to turn into the elite quarterback the team has been hoping for since they drafted him first overall in 2009. Statistically, Stafford has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, putting up massive numbers for the Lions during his first five seasons.

Yet for every fourth-quarter comeback he completed and remarkable play he made, he has also made a decision leaving those watching and wondering what he saw or thought on that play. That has been the conundrum of Stafford's career. The Lions believe any issues Stafford has are correctable and these are the guys to do it after working with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

If the Lions turn Stafford into the consistent quarterback that led them to the playoffs in 2011 full-time, then the entire shift in coaching staffs and upgrading the offensive roster will have been worth it. But it all falls to Stafford -- as it often does to quarterbacks around the league.

There's a reason many franchises believe they can go only as far as the quarterback plays. Thus far, Stafford has taken them from a club that didn't win a game in 2008 to one with realistic playoff expectations each season.

Detroit has set itself up for more than that now, though. The Lions have a roster with enough talent to at least make a run at the playoffs, if not succeed in the postseason. If they do, Stafford and his improvement will play a major role in making it that far.
A weekly examination of the Lions' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 24 | Last Week: 20 | Power Ranking since 2002

The Lions fired Jim Schwartz on Monday, most of the players are already headed to offseason destinations and the only thing that really matters for Detroit now is who it will hire as a new coach.

That comes, of course, because of what happened to Detroit over the final two months of the season, when the Lions fell from leading the NFC North to out of the playoffs. The slide was captured well in the Power Rankings, as the Lions were as high as No. 9 in Week 11.

Then Detroit started to drop. And drop. And drop some more, until the team finished the season right around where it was predicted to finish. The Lions had a preseason ranking of 24. They have a final regular-season ranking of 21. The saddest part for the Lions is this ties their second-highest finish in the Power Rankings with the 2004 season. The only year that was better: the 2011 season, when Detroit made the playoffs.
A weekly examination of the Lions' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 24 | Last Week: 17 | Power Ranking since 2002

The fall to preseason expectations for the Detroit Lions is almost complete. After reaching as high as No. 9 in Week 11, the Lions have cascaded down the rankings as fast as their record plummeted from one potentially representing a divisional champion to a team likely hunting for a new coach a week from now.

Now for the most amazing part -- even at No. 20, this is the second-highest the Lions have been in the power rankings this late in the season since 2002. The only time Detroit was higher was during its playoff season in 2011, when the Lions were seventh. That, right there, shows the overall struggles of this franchise since the turn of the century.

Detroit has actually dropped eight spots in the past two weeks, going from 12th in Week 15 to 20th entering the final week of the season.