Oct 11, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; A general view outside Ford Field before the game between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
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This will be the third year Jim Caldwell takes the Detroit Lions to the playoffs. But, do they have what it takes to be the top seed in the NFC?
The Detroit Lions have a lot to prove this season. They enter the season attempting to make their third playoff appearance since acquiring head coach Jim Caldwell four years ago. It is also the first time since Caldwell has joined the Lions that they will open the season at Ford Stadium. Spoiler alert: The odds are favoring the Lions to win, so be sure to get your tickets!
In 2016, the Lions finished second in the NFC North, falling short to none other than the Green Bay Packers. Although they were eliminated after losing to the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round, the Lions must have impressed someone at the NFL, as they have three primetime games this year.
I don’t think there’s any doubt they will be a playoff contender again. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done before they can be considered a serious Super Bowl hopeful. The Lions non-existing defense is a huge setback for Detroit. Their below-average running game adds more pressure to Matthew Stafford, as he will be forced to play a heavy passing game.
With the NFL Draft starting Thursday, the Lions are ready to aggressively jump in. Bob Quinn and Caldwell have a vision, they know what they want and who they’re looking for. With their eyes on a few first-round options, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Lions trade for something sooner than the 21st pick. It will be interesting to see which way they actually decide to go.
What I do know is that even before the draft, the Lions are showing signs of greatness. With an average level of difficult matchups, there’s no way the Lions won’t be appearing in the 2017 Playoffs.
Although some analysts have the Lions repeating their 9-7 record from 2016, I think that’s a cop-out. Let’s break down the 2017 schedule further instead and analyze each game before making a prediction, ultimately determining their 2017 win-loss record — albeit a bit early for predictions.
Sep 15, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21) hurdles over Arizona Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby (56) and running back Mikel Leshoure (25) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports
Week 1: Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals
There is a lot of pressure when it comes to a team’s home season opener, especially when they haven’t hosted a season opener since 2014. Not to mention, the Lions have a lot to prove against the Arizona Cardinals. The last time these two teams came face to face was in 2014 as well — and the Cardinals destroyed the Lions. The Lions walked away with a 42-17 defeat. But since then, the Lions have changed up their roster, and are now under the direction of Bob Quinn.
Another thing to consider is their roster. Let’s be honest, Carson Palmer is getting old. Even last season we saw him take a few hard hits, one which even caused him to enter concussion protocol after being taken out of the Los Angeles Rams game. They also lost cornerback Tony Jefferson to the Baltimore Ravens, along with numerous other key components to their defense.
Week 2: Detroit Lions at New York Giants (Monday)
The New York Giants looked like a new team last season. Their offense was fine, but it their improved defense came ready to take on any team that stood in their way of the playoffs. The Lions had a rough time matching up against the Giants in 2016 and could have difficulties again this season. Yes, the Lions signed several players during the free agency that will enhance their offense, but they still lack when it comes to a running back. Specifically, a back that’s capable of posting six points in the red zone.
I also must mention the Lions defense, or lack thereof. Hopefully, the Lions will address this during the draft, which only increases their chances of leaving with a victory on the first Monday Night game.
Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) is greeted by Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) after he scored on a 21-yard fumble recovery in the third quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Week 3: Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons
We all saw the Atlanta Falcons completely embarrass themselves after losing the Super Bowl. After completely blowing it in the second half after dominating the entire first half leaves me to wonder if they will do the same during their revenge season. Have you heard of a team called the Carolina Panthers?
Some analysts are suggesting it’s a short week, which could be bad for the Lions. Short week? It’s one day shorter! I’d be more concerned with the fact that even though they buckled when it mattered most, they’re still the NFC champions.
The only good that comes with this game is that it’s early in the season. The boys will still be fresh and determined. However, even with it being it early in the season, I am doubtful the Lions will take this game.
Week 4: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
If you don’t remember last season’s game against the Minnesota Vikings I’ll say one name, Golden Tate. Tate literally flipped into the end zone.
Not only did he disrespect safety Andrew Sendejo, but he won the game for One Pride in over time. Is this scenario likely to happen again? No!
Unfortunately, the Lions got lucky last season. Although I am not a huge Sam Bradford fan, the Vikings have one of the top defenses in the league. The Lions don’t have a consistent end zone running back, and aren’t going to be able to withstand the Vikings defense during this matchup.
Sep 14, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) gets tackled by Carolina Panthers strong safety Roman Harper (41) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Week 5: Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers
I mentioned the Panthers earlier, but I shouldn’t even have to speak about this game. Yet, it’s just what the Lions will need after a few difficult back-to-back games. Some will argue that the Panthers don’t have a strong offense to help Cam Newton conquer opponents. Yes, that’s true, but they don’t have that great of a defense either, so it’s not just an offense issue. Their Super Bowl contender team is gone.
This is the game the Lions need to win after playing three of last season’s playoff teams. The Lions have the overall package compared to the Panthers. This game should help the team bounce back.
Week 6: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Last season when the Lions played the New Orleans Saints, Stafford left fans speechless. It was by far one of if not his best performance of the season. The Lions left New Orleans with a 28-13 victory. It was the second year in a row the Lions conquered the Saints on the road.
Although the Saints will come back with vengeance, the Lions clearly have the stronger offense. This game should be easy for the Lions given their past success. This game will leave the Lions feeling positive before entering their Week 7 bye.
Nov 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood (96) sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 37-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Week 8: Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
A game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is never a walk in the park. The good news is, the team will be well-rested coming off their bye week and the game is a primetime home game. I don’t want to come out saying there’s no way the Lions will win because Stafford is tied for the most fourth-quarter comebacks in a season. But the Lions don’t have a reliable running game, and the Steelers have a solid offense and defense.
Realistically, who’s stopping Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell from having their way? If the Lions take advantage of the draft and supplement their missing pieces on both sides, they could be a contender. Until all of that happens, it’s not looking like a positive outcome.
Week 9: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (Monday)
Unfortunately, the week after the Lions will have played the Steelers they are heading to Lambeau Field. Luckily, the Lions losing streak in Green Bay was broken in 2015, but that doesn’t mean the Lions will defeat the Packers.
The Lions need to improve their defense before they can conquer Aaron Rodgers and his talented offense. Once Rodgers starts slinging balls downfield, there’s no stopping him, and as always the Lions offense isn’t entirely complete. The weather is also another critical factor in this game. By November, the weather could potentially be single digits. Cold road games are never a good look for any team.
However, I don’t believe the Packers will sweep the Lions this season. Although I see them coming out on top of their division, this will be the game the Lions have a victory.
Oct 13, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) is upended by Cleveland Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson (39) during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Lions beat the Browns 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Week 10: Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns
When a team has the Cleveland Browns on their schedule, it acts as a get out of jail free card. What can I really say about the Browns that you don’t already know? They are a struggling team attempting to rebuild and restructure their organization. They don’t have the overall package needed to be a serious contender in the NFL.
The only way I see the Browns coming out on top this season is if they decide to trade up to gain the second pick. Having the first and second pick in the draft could land the Browns the talent they need to rebuild their team.
Week 11: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
One of the worst games the Lions played last season was against the Chicago Bears. This game not only highlighted the Lions awful defense, but the Bears entered the game as the underdog.
Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer finished with a little over 300 yards and completed 28-of-36 passes. And running back Jordan Howard made a name for himself after he rushed for over 100 yards on 23 carries. Theo Riddick had a Lions high in the same game with just 31 rushing yards.
This season, the Lions will be taking on another backup quarterback, Mike Glennon. Although some people wish for this matchup, I would be careful what you wish for after the flop last season.
Nov 24, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Fans holds signs during the game between the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Week 12: Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings (Thursday)
The Lions have had great success the last few years on Thanksgiving. For the past four years, they have taken the victory on Turkey Day. Ironically, this year we see a Thanksgiving game repeat against the Minnesota Vikings and the Lions. The good news is the two teams struggle and excel on opposite ends.
Detroit has holes in their defense, while the Vikings have a strong one. And as of now, I would say the Vikings have a weaker offense than the Lions. One thing is for sure, it will be a great holiday with a fight for the division. Food, beer and football — it doesn’t get better than that.
Week 13: Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens
The Lions face the Baltimore Ravens at one of the most important times of the season: the playoff hunt. It’s also going to be a road game for the team. These two factors will either make or break the Lions. As always, the Lions defense doesn’t have a chance against Joe Flacco and the Ravens. But the Lions defense can’t get any worse, so it’s a possibility it might not be a complete blowout.
The exciting thing will be to see defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin return to Baltimore to take on their previous team. I am just not sure they will defeat them.
Nov 24, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston (92) tackles Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the third quarter at Ford Field. Tampa Bay won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Week 14: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There’s no surprise here that another game could end with a loss due to the Lions defense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t necessarily have the overall package, though, which is a good thing.
The bad thing is, once Jameis Winston finds Mike Evans, it’s a wrap. Not to mention, they signed DeSean Jackson during the free agency. But keep in mind, the Lions had some serious free-agency additions of their own, and I am confident they will take advantage their draft options. If the Lions don’t get their front line together, though, they could be defeated in Week 14. Don’t shut down the thought of the Buccaneers — they’re not the same old Bucs anymore.
Most of my predictions thus far, have been consistent with the majority of NFL analysts, however, this is where I eliminate myself from the majority.
Week 15: Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears
At this point in the season, the Lions will have already played the Bears in Chicago, hopefully leaving with a win. It is also the time of year when the Lions hope to be in the hunt for the playoffs. The Lions clearly have a stronger team and should sweep the Bears in 2017. This is one of those games that would be talked about for seasons to come, should the Lions lose this matchup.
Aug 18, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver T.J. Jones (13) misses a catch against Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris (37) during the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Week 16: Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals game should be a great game to watch. It’s one of the fairest competitions they have all season. The receiver’s matchup well with the defenders and vice versa. Stafford will have a shootout with Marvin Jones on the field. And, on the other hand, A.J. Green can easily find himself open downfield. The two teams aren’t the best in the league, but it will be a fight for the victory. If the Lions come out on top, it will increase team moral as they head into their final game of the season.
Week 17: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
The NFL schedule-makers have a great sense of humor. The Lions close the regular season against the Packers in a game that could result in many tears. It could end up being a divisional showdown for the crown again. Hopefully, for One Pride nation, the ending results will be different.
For the past two years, the Packers have defeated the Lions and have taken the title. Although we all saw the Packers go down in the playoffs last season, it’s not likely it will happen against the Lions. We should all probably prepare ourselves now for the Week 17 heartbreak.