Five seasons ago, the NFL welcomed a new young gun to the league, Matt Stafford. The 2009 number one overall pick by the Detroit Lions, Stafford is the only quarterback selected in the first round of that year who is still his team’s starter and who is exhibiting the talents and skills of an elite franchise quarterback. However, the road travelled by Stafford hasn’t been an easy one.
In his first two seasons as a pro, Stafford battled shoulder injuries, missing a total of 19 games during that time. Still, Matt played like a hero, battling two separate shoulder injuries, one of which came on a play that helped secure a late season Lions victory, the second for a rebuilding 2-14 Lions team in fledgling Stafford’s rookie season. During these first two seasons, you could see glimpses of a future elite quarterback. Heck, in his rookie season, Stafford had one game where he threw for 422 yards and 5 touchdowns! While some might say the performance was a fluke as it was against a struggling Browns team (5-11), it doesn’t matter. This is what great quarterbacks do when playing struggling teams.
In his third season in 2011, it all came to fruition for Stafford as he exploded for 5,038 yards passing and 41 touchdowns! Only two other quarterbacks (Brees and Brady) passed for more yards that season, and only two other quarterback s (Brees and Rodgers) passed for more touchdowns. The Lions made the playoffs and only good things were expected going forward. Unfortunately, in 2012, while Stafford was able to pass for almost as many yards (4,967) as in 2011, Stafford’s touchdown total more than halved (20) as the Lions suddenly were allergic to the end-zone, being outscored by their opponents by just four points on average per game. Suddenly, the Lions found themselves back in the NFC North division cellar, finishing with a 4-12 record.
In the 2013 offseason, the Lions made one big change to the offense by adding multi-threat running back Reggie Bush to the team. While it’s debatable whether Bush is in fact the difference maker in sparking the Lions offense, it’s true that Stafford is comfortable again getting the ball into the end-zone, having thrown for 15 touchdowns already, on 2,129 yards passing. While these numbers make it look like Stafford might miss his 2011 breakout year totals, Stafford might just be getting warmed up, having thrown 7 touchdowns on 605 yards passing in the past two games!
In Week 8, the Lions play a Cowboys team that has gone back and forth from being one of the better defenses in the league, to one of the worst. In the games against the top passing offenses in the league (Broncos, Chargers, Giants), the Cowboys have allowed an average of 412 passing yards and near 4 touchdowns per game. This week, it’s Stafford’s turn.
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Written By: Jim Saranteas – @TheFantasyGreek and @JimSaranteas on Twitter
Founder of the fantasy football advice site TheFantasyGreek.com
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