Analysis: The Lions are the real deal because Jared Goff has become a top-tier QB again

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) rolls out to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Detroit Lions are legitimate contenders in the NFC because Jared Goff has become a top-tier quarterback again.

The 2016 No. 1 overall pick who once led the Rams to an NFC title was given away by Los Angeles in the trade for Matthew Stafford. The Rams had to send Detroit extra picks just to take Goff and his salary.


But Goff has gone from a stopgap QB to a Pro Bowl player, helping the Lions to a 5-1 start. He has 1,618 yards passing with 11 TDs, 3 interceptions and a 105.1 passer rating in six games. Last season, he had 29 TD passes and only seven picks.

“It’s awesome playing with someone like Goff,” wideout Jameson Williams said. “He gets it done and makes the right decisions all the time and we (are) just looking to keep going right now.”

In Detroit’s impressive 20-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Goff threw for 353 yards and two TDs with no turnovers against a tough defense that had extra time to prepare for him after a bye.

The Lions had to rely more on Goff and the passing game after running back David Montgomery was injured.

“Jared Goff had an outstanding day,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “I thought he really helped us win this game, on offense. That’s a damn good defense that we faced and we knew that coming in here and they made it hard on us.”

While the Eagles and 49ers both lost for the first time, the Lions took care of business in convincing fashion to get in the mix for the top spot in the NFC.

The Lions, who entered the season with high expectations after going 8-2 in the final 10 games in 2022, beat the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on the road to kick off the season and have lived up to the preseason hype so far.

“We know who we are,” Goff said. “We feel like we can go beat anyone right now.”

For a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season, the Lions are already talking about trying to secure home-field advantage in the NFC.

“Last year we started off 1-6 and now to start off 5-1 is huge for us,” wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said. “We put so much focus into each week and so much preparation and to come out with a victory feels really good. But we know we have bigger goals ahead of us. We want to keep doing what we’re doing, we want to get to the playoffs, we want to have home-field advantage for the playoffs. There’s so many things that we want to accomplish this year. This is just a start for us. We gotta keep going.”

The Lions face another tough challenge on the road this week at Baltimore (4-2). The Ravens have a strong defense so Goff will be tested.

Dak delivers

Dak Prescott bounced back nicely from a terrible game against San Francisco to lead the Cowboys to a 20-17 win at the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night. Prescott completed 21 of 30 passes for 272 yards and one TD on a perfectly thrown ball to Brandin Cooks. Prescott also ran for 40 yards, including an 18-yard TD. He made an outstanding play to elude a sack and completed a 60-yard catch-and-run pass to Tony Pollard on third-and-11 to extend the drive that ended with his TD pass to Cooks.

For whatever reason, critics love to pile on Prescott when he has a rough game. Perhaps it’s because the Cowboys are known as “America’s Team” and he’s their QB. Former players turned talking heads are especially harsh on Prescott.

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Donte Witner, an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, said last week: “Dak Prescott (stinks). Period.”

Prescott proved again that he doesn’t stink. Now the Cowboys (4-2) have a week off before returning to face the Rams in Week 8.

Analyze this

The Chargers are 2-3 and speculation about coach Brandon Staley is heating up. The Chargers are 21-19 under Staley, including a playoff loss in which they blew a 27-0 lead.

Staley, who was previously the defensive coordinator with the Rams, hasn’t improved the defense since his arrival. The Chargers are 31st in yards allowed this season and have been bottom-third in points allowed in Staley’s two-plus seasons.

One of the most analytically driven coaches in the NFL, Staley continues to make questionable decisions whether it’s going for it on fourth down deep in his own territory or passing up short field goals to go for it on fourth down in a tight game.

The Chargers visit Kansas City (5-1) this week so they’re looking at climbing out of a 2-4 hole unless they pull off an upset.

Buffalo busted

The Bills (4-2) haven’t played like a team that is supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. They were lucky to escape with a win over the lowly New York Giants (1-5) on Sunday night. Coming off a jet-lagged loss to Jacksonville in London, the Bills underestimated their opponent. Buffalo came within 1 yard and a missed penalty call of losing to the Giants, holding on for a 14-9 victory. The Bills have an opportunity to figure things out when they play at New England this week. The Patriots (1-5) are inept.

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