It’s a big week for the Lions and the NFL – big games in Week 1, big projections for the season and big money given to Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
The Lions play one of Week 1’s prime-time games. They open up against the Giants on Monday night at Ford Field, and expectations are high with major changes since the end of last season.
Before that, their eyes will be on Thursday night’s season kickoff game between the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, who are favored to win the NFC North.
Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt signed a big contract – a six-year deal that reportedly could have a maximum value of $100 million. More important, $51.8 million is guaranteed.
Money talks in sports, and Watt’s contract had people talking about what impact it might have on Lions defensive tackle
What about it, guys?
Mike: The question being asked is whether Suh is worth the money that Watt got, based on his production at this stage of his career.
But here’s another question: is Watt worth the money? He had 20.5 sacks in his second season in 2012 but had only 10.5 in 2013.
Looking strictly at the stats, is Watt worth that much dough when he was half the player he was – according to the stats – in his third season?
Tim: Unfortunately, statistics, especially sacks, don’t tell the whole picture all the time.
Watt had 38.5 quarterback hurries last season, according to the Football Outsiders Almanac. No other player had more than 21. Add in the batted balls (7), forced fumbles (4) and sacks (10.5), and the whole picture adds up to him being the most dominant defensive player in the game.
A players’ value is ultimately whatever a team is willing to pay him. When it comes to Watt, however, in my opinion, he’s one of the few non-quarterbacks worth $100 million in this league.
So is Suh worth Watt money?
Mike: I’ll put it this way: I wouldn’t want to be the one sitting across from him at the bargaining table and trying to convince Suh that he’s worth even a penny less than he’s asking.
Like you said, players are worth what someone’s willing to pay. The flip side of that is, a team can say what it’s unwilling to pay with the asking price. When that happens, both sides move on.
There’s no doubt that the Lions’ defense is better with Suh than without him. The ultimate question will be whether they’re better off spreading his money around for two or three players than giving it to him. It’s all about value, and most people will argue that pass-rushers are worth more than defensive tackles.
That has nothing to do with how good Suh is. It’s a judgment based on the position he plays.
Speaking of judgments, is it too early to pay attention to the result of the Packers—Seahawks game?
Tim: Real quick on Suh, I agree with you that he’s a dominant defensive tackle, probably the best in the league, but I value those elite tackles at around $12-13 million per year. We’ll see what number the Lions value him at this offseason. If it’s not to Suh’s liking, he’ll play elsewhere and the Lions will distribute that money to other areas.
As far as the Packers/Seahawks game goes, those are two of the best teams in the NFC and it’ll be a measuring-stick game early on.
Can the tough-nosed Seattle defense put a wrench in the high-powered Green Bay offensive attack? Will the stricter rules on defensive holding and illegal contact affect Seattle’s ability to play their physical brand of football in the secondary?
If Green Bay comes out and beats Seattle in their house to open the season, I think it’s easy to say they’re the early favorites in the NFC North.
Mike: Win or lose, I make the Packers the favorites in the North, but beating the Seahawks on their home field gives them a victory that they’re not expected to have.
If the games go to form in Week 1, the Lions will beat the Giants, and the Packers will lose to the Seahawks. With the Packers coming to Ford Field in Week 3, the Lions should be looking for any chance to get an early edge on Aaron Rodgers and Co.
What’s your prediction for Monday night?
Tim: It should be rocking in Ford Field and I think the Lions will feed off that energy. The Jim Caldwell era gets off to a good start with a 27-17 victory.
I know you have your entire season prediction coming on Monday, but can you give us a sneak peek into Monday night's prediction.
Mike: I agree with you.
Ford Field will be rocking.
Stay tuned for my predictions.
Tim: I like how you leave it cold like that. I guess we’ll find out Friday and Monday.