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The Detroit Lions have made case for being the NFC North's best team

The Kansas City Chiefs prevailed Sunday afternoon at Ford Field, 34-30, in a game that would have made the late former Chief, Lion and PFFer Gunther Cunningham blush.  The Detroit Lions were without their best defensive player in Darius Slay, but still managed to hold NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes without a completion over 20 yards in the air and to just two completions in 13 attempts when under pressure. 

Two red-zone turnovers and a late touchdown drive ultimately did them in, but the end result should not obscure an underlying truth in the NFC North, as first said on the PFF Forecast: The Lions are the division’s best team.

Our underlying metrics and simulations haven’t caught up to this truth, as we have the Lions with just a 17 percent chance to win the division through four weeks (ahead of Minnesota, but trailing Green Bay and Chicago).  A lot of this is due to prior information, which will be regressed away in increasing fashion as the season progresses.

After three winning seasons in four years under the offensively-minded Jim Caldwell, the Lions decided to move in a different direction in 2018, hiring former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.  Aside from laying the blueprint for his former employer to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, early returns were awful, as their record fell from 9-7 in 2016 and 2017 to 6-10 in 2018.

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