By Quinne Lowe @sports_qa on May 1, 2014
New year, new coach, new hope for the Detroit Lions? The 2014 schedule has enough winnable games to get the talented but underachieving team back into the playoffs, that's IF they play to their full potential. But the schedule is also full of enough tough road opponents and competitive home games to have the team selecting in the top 10 of the 2015 draft and cause some fans to turn up the heat on head coach Jim Caldwell after one season.
In a rematch of the 2013 game that ultimately cost the Lions a playoff berth, the Lions prove in front of a prime-time audience that they are not the same Lions -- at least not in the first game. Matthew Stafford shows off his improved mechanics and his new rookie weapon pays early dividends as the offense takes advantage of an aging Giants defensive backfield early and often.
Even though the Lions' offense struggles some going against a tough Carolina Panthers defense, it's the Lions' defense that ultimately decides the game as they stack the box and harass Cam Newton all afternoon as he is still trying to find a new No. 1 receiver with the departure of Steve Smith.
The Lions face their first division foe in Week 3 and continue to struggle against the Packers when they have Aaron Rodgers under center. The offense keeps up midway through the third quarter as it looks like Stafford finally may be becoming that elite quarterback, but a costly fumble by Reggie Bush gives Green Bay the cushion they need.
In Week, 4 the Lions must prove that they are not the "same ol' lions" against an inferior Jets team that still is tough at home. The defense leads the charge as the front seven is getting more acclimated to the aggressive Teryl Austin defensive scheme, and forces Geno Smith into three turnovers.
The Lions continue their hot play in Week 5 as the offense uses a good game from the running back tandem of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush to combine for 173 total yards and three total touchdowns. Second-year defensive end Ziggy Ansah terrorizes the Bills' offensive with three sacks and a forced fumble as the Lions move to 4-1.
The Lions head to Minnesota before the wintry elements become too much of a factor and that should help a lot. Even though the Vikings should have an advantage with Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings at receiver, that may take some time to jell. The Lions' offense is just too much for the Vikings.
A matchup of two prolific offenses in 2014. The key is whoever can make key defensive stops. Unfortunately for the Lions, they have yet to find someone on their roster who can stop Jimmy Graham and even though Megatron wins the stats battle between the two, Graham comes up with a big touchdown to win the game. Both players get unsportsmanlike dunking penalties as well.
This is the first overseas game for the Lions and it shows as they spend the first half overcoming bad penalties and mistakes early on. In the second half, a big run by Reggie Bush excites the Wembley Stadium crowd and Ndamukong Suh has a key sack to end a late drive for the Falcons.
The two-week layoff coming off the trip to London seems to have done more damage than good for the Lions as they come out sluggish against the Dolphins, and a long pass by Tannehill to Mike Wallace proves to be the backbreaker as the Lions fall to 6-3.
The Lions travel west to face a new nemesis in the Arizona Cardinals and even though Megatron is held in check by Patrick Peterson, the acquisition of Golden Tate has began to pay dividends as he plays well in third straight game. The defense is aided by two costly fumbles by Palmer as Arizona was driving to keep pace, and the Lions bounce back to move to 7-3.
Another tough road game as the Lions head to Foxboro and despite not having Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady takes advantage of three Lions turnovers and leads the Patriots to victory.
The Lions have a short week as they face bitter rival Chicago in the Thanksgiving game. The short turnaround proves to be a great motivator as the Lions continue their dominance of Jay Cutler in Ford Field. The Lions force two turnovers and score a defensive touchdown as they get a second-straight turkey day victory.
The Lions look for revenge against the Buccaneers, and they get it as the defense once again leads the charge against an inconsistent Josh McCown. While Doug Martin has a good game, the Lions' back seven make sure that the career backup plays like one most of the afternoon. Stafford surpasses 4000 yards again, and is playing more efficiently.
The Lions look primed for an upset early on, but a key third-down conversion by the rookie receiver puts them in position to take back control of the game and Stafford connects with Megatron two times in the second half. The Lions win after a game-sealing interception by Deandre Levy.
The Lions head to Chicago with the division within their grasp and just like last year, they could not win a game they had to in order to get closer to the division. Matt Forte has a big game as injuries start to take a toll on the Lions' defense. Stafford tries to keep the game close, but drops from the previous season come back to haunt the Lions as they fall to 10-5.
The Lions head to Lambeau field with the playoffs on the line, but it seems as if they just aren't ready for to seize the big-moment wins. Eddie Lacy runs wild on the frozen tundra and the Lions seem more concerned about the weather than winning the game. Despite the loss, the Lions sneak into the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
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