Now that the preseason is officially over, the Detroit Lions will be looking to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2011. The past two seasons, the Lions have finished 4-12 and 7-9. With Jim Caldwell now in charge, things look bright in 2014, but how will they fare this season.
The Lions open their season against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. This will be an excellent opportunity for Detroit to exercise the demons of last year’s bitter defeat to New York. Seeing how bad the Giants have performed this preseason, particularly on offense, the Lions should win this game rather decisively.
Next, the Lions play the Carolina Panthers in Carolina. I expect the Panthers to win this matchup not just because Carolina is the reigning NFC South champions, but because the Lions have historically been a poor road team. This game could easily turn the Lions’ direction if Panthers QB Cam Newton can’t play, but under the assumption that he does, Carolina and their stout defense will limit Detroit’s offense enough to get a win.
The Lions then host the Green Bay Packers in their first division game of the year. Unlike last season’s 40-10 beatdown of Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day, the Packers will have QB Aaron Rodgers under center instead of Matt Flynn. I expect the Lions to lose to the Packers, but it will be closer than the experts think. Detroit follows that up with a game against the New York Jets in New York. I like this matchup for the Lions, especially the Lions’ defense against Geno Smith and the Jets’ offense. Unlike the Carolina game, Detroit will find a way to beat the Jets on the road.
With the first quarter of the season now complete, Detroit hosts the Buffalo Bills and former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz in Week 5. The Lions will also win this game rather easily against a young team with question marks at quarterback.
Detroit then goes on the road in Week 6 to take on the division rival Minnesota Vikings, this time outdoors. I’ll give Detroit another win here as the Lions’ defense will stop Adrian Peterson in the running game, making Matt Cassel try to beat them, which he won’t be able to. In Week 7, Detroit hosts the New Orleans Saints in what could be a shootout. The last time these teams met was in the 2011 playoffs with New Orleans winning 45-27. Just like 2011, the Lions will fall to the Saints.
The next week, Detroit makes their first trip to play in London as they take on the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams will struggle to score as each will try to adjust to a different stadium with a different field. In the end, I’ll give Detroit the edge here because they can make enough plays in the running game, which will make the difference in a low-scoring game.
The Lions then begin the second half of their season at home against the Miami Dolphins. Miami still has questions on the offensive line heading into this season, and if there’s one thing that Detroit does well, it’s get after the passer. I expect a big win for the Lions here. Then there’s a big matchup against the Arizona Cardinals in Arizona. Given Detroit’s recent struggles in Arizona, the Cardinals will win once again, making the Lions 6-4 after 11 weeks.
Detroit follows that game up against the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Vikings. Detroit will lose to New England and Tampa Bay, but will defeat both Chicago and Minnesota, making Detroit 8-6 after 15 weeks.
In Week 16, I expect the Lions to lose to Chicago at Soldier Field. Detroit, by now, will be in the wild card hunt or on the outside looking in just like last season at 8-7 heading into Week 17.
In that final week of the regular season, the Lions travel to Green Bay where they have not won since 1991. I’ll say that the losing streak continues, making the Lions 8-8 this season, missing the playoffs for a third-straight season.