Pick seemingly any quarterback passing metric from 2019, and it will show Matthew Stafford was on a tear before a back injury wiped out the final eight games of his campaign.
Raw stats? Stafford was good, ranking second in TD passes (19), fourth in passing yards (2,499) and fifth in passer rating (106.0) through the first half of the season. Prefer something a little deeper? The Lions QB excelled in other analytics as well. Football Outsiders ranked Stafford ninth in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and fourth in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). Pro Football Focus had him as their seventh overall graded QB. ESPN's total QBR placed the Detroit veteran sixth at 69.6.
It doesn't take a stat geek to know that Stafford was enjoying his best season in offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's system. The eye test alone showed the 32-year-old quarterback was in the midst of a renaissance as a big-play baller, despite Detroit suffering some brutal early-season losses.
Now healthy, Stafford hopes to pick up where he left off last year.
"We want to be a great offense and the first step to it is making sure everyone is on the same page pulling in the same direction," Stafford said, via the team's official website. "I think we've got that. Hopefully we can continue to grow and get better in year two."
The Lions return all their starting weapons in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola and tight end T.J. Hockenson. The addition of rookie D'Andre Swift to a backfield with Kerryon Johnson should also provide more pass-catching ability for Stafford.
Last offseason, Stafford was learning a new offense while focusing on his family, with his wife Kelly recovering from brain surgery. That experience should help the veteran quarterback in an offseason where the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to wipe out much of the spring and summer activity.
"It doesn't hurt to be in a second year of an offense and not try to learn something new and try to be a rookie quarterback or second-year guy coming in," Stafford said. "Definitely, I feel like it's a positive for us as a team and for myself. When I get out there and throw with those guys, when I get chances to work with them I feel like I can teach them as good as our coaches can on what we're looking for and what they need to do. That's an advantage for us. Now let's just hope that shows up on Sundays."
Detroit might not own the same roster depth as other NFC contenders, but if Stafford stays healthy, the Lions could be a sneaky candidate to disrupt the chalk predictions in the conference.