The Lions ended their 2017 season with a hollow 35-11 victory over the Green Bay Packers to finish 9-7, missing the playoffs and ending the Jim Caldwell era in Detroit. Fast forward nine months and the Lions have a new head coach in former Patriots assistant Matt Patricia.
Now less than a week away from the start of the 2018 season, let me walk you through each game to give you my thoughts on how the Lions will fare in an extremely tough NFC North division.
1.) New York Jets – 9/10/18 at 7:10 pm (MNF)
The Jets might be the second-best team in the AFC East, even with rookie Sam Darnold starting at quarterback. Still, the Lions should get a nice opening-week victory on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
Prediction: 21-13 Win (1-0)
2.) @San Francisco 49ers – 9/16/18 at 4:05 pm
Next, it’s off to the San Francisco to meet up with Bay area golden boy Jimmy Garropolo. The 49ers appear to be an up-and-coming team, however, I don’t think they will hit their stride until later in the season. The Lions start out 2-0.
Prediction: 24-19 Win (2-0)
3.) New England Patriots – 9/23/18 at 8:20 pm (SNF)
The Patriots have had an unusual amount of drama surrounding the team over the past year. But I’m sure as hell not taking any former Pats staffer in a game against Bill Belichick. It’ll be an exciting Sunday Night game but the Lions will get their first loss of the season here.
Prediction: 35- 24 Loss (2-1)
4.) @Dallas Cowboys – 9/30/18 at 1:00 pm
The Cowboys may not have a great defense this season, even if Jerry Jones believes otherwise, but their offense will be too much for a Lions defensive unit that’s still finding its way. I expect a shootout in Big D between Stafford and Prescott. The difference in the game, though, will be Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Prediction: 30-28 Loss (2-2)
5.) Green Bay Packers – 10/7/18 at 1:00 pm
With doubt beginning to creep in, the Lions bounce back at home against a good, albeit flawed, Packers team. Aaron Rodgers playing should make a difference but I expect Detroit to split with Green Bay, winning their first meeting with the Cheeseheads in front of a pumped-up Ford Field crowd.
Prediction: 27-24 Win (3-2)
6.) BYE WEEK
7.) @Miami Dolphins – 10/21/18 at 1:00 pm
Miami is always tough to predict. They have talent and are by no means a pushover, although it’s hard to see them winning more than 7-8 games. This could be an ugly game that Detroit squeaks out at the very end.
Prediction: 17-16 Win (4-2)
8.) Seattle Seahawks – 10/28/18 at 1:00 pm
Seattle could still be a wild card team this season, even if they’re no longer the NFC powerhouse they were a few years ago. Playing at home, Detroit’s offense will be too much for this once-great Seahawks defense.
Prediction: 27-21 Win (5-2)
9.) @Minnesota Vikings – 11/4/18 at 1:00 pm
Finally, the Lions get their first taste of Captain Kirk as a Viking. Detroit split with the eventual NFC North champions last season, something I expect them to do again in 2018. A healthy Dalvin Cook could be the difference for the Vikings in this one, though.
Prediction: 20-17 Loss (5-3)
10.) @Chicago Bears – 11/11/18 at 1:00 pm
The Bears just added another potential headache for quarterback Matthew Stafford after trading for a former Defensive Player Of The Year in Khalil Mack. I expect Chicago to be interesting this season, however, the Lions will win another ugly, low-scoring game.
Prediction: 17-14 Win (6-3)
11.) Carolina Panthers – 11/18/18 at 1:00 pm
Carolina surprised those around the league last season by being one of three NFC South teams to make the playoffs. They added some nice pieces in the offseason and in my opinion, are a much more physical team than the Lions. Stafford versus Newton is always an entertaining matchup but Carolina will get this one, dropping the Lions to 6-4.
Prediction: 21-17 Loss (6-4)
12.) Chicago Bears – 11/22/18 at 12:30 pm
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Chicago will be hitting their stride after blowing some games early in the season. I see a desperate Lions team being upset at home by a much better defensive Bears team. It’ll be a tough day for the POD crew, but one loss doesn’t mean the Lions still don’t own the Bears.
Prediction: 16-14 Loss (6-5)
13.) Los Angeles Rams – 12/2/18 at 1:00 pm
Los Angeles is the NFL’s most sexy team this year after making some serious moves in the offseason. I expect them to fall short of their Super Bowl aspirations, yet still wind up winning the NFC West. The Rams, led by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, will be too talented up front for Detroit. It may be a tough day for Matthew Stafford and the offense.
Prediction: 24-16 Loss (6-6)
14.) @Arizona Cardinals – 12/9/18 at 4:25 pm
Matthew Stafford carved up the Cardinals last season with 4 touchdown passes in Week 1. Arizona should fall to near the bottom of the NFC West with the emergence of the Rams and 49ers this season, but they could still be a tough out. Arizona may very well be playing rookie Josh Rosen by this point in the year.
Prediction: 31-24 Win (7-6)
15.) @Buffalo Bills – 12/16 at 1:00 pm
The Bills are in transition and if the Lions are lucky, they will get to face their second rookie quarterback in as many weeks if Josh Allen gets the start. Buffalo isn’t scaring anybody this season, yet the Lions will be facing pressure not to lose that seventh game.
Prediction: 28-17 Win (8-6)
16.) Minnesota Vikings – 12/23/18 at 1:00 pm
The Vikings may be better in the long run with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, but it could take a year or two for him to prove it. I think Cousins, after a nice start to the season, will begin to struggle down the stretch. The Lions get this one at home after losing their first matchup with Minny to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: 23-20 Win (9-6)
17.) @Green Bay Packers – 12/30/18 at 1:00 pm
After getting hot over the previous three weeks, the Lions get a familiar dose of Aaron Rodgers and drop a close one at Lambeau Field. I see the Packers and Lions both going 9-7, while the Vikings snag the division at 10-6. It’s a mixed bag for Matt Patricia in his first season, but the Lions will be in the mix for the final wild card spot.
Prediction: 21-20 Loss (9-7)
Season Record Prediction: 9-7
Analysis: The Lions could go anywhere from 7-9 to 10-6 in my mind. Matt Patricia may be a defensive wizard, but it’s his first season implementing his scheme while assuming head coach duties for the first time in his professional career. I think the Lions could possibly squeak into the wild card with Stafford helping to win a few games when the defense doesn’t show up.
The Lions didn’t look overly prepared in the preseason, although you never want to put too much stock, good or bad, into a player or team’s exhibition performance. Occasionally there is an outlier — such as Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in 2016 — where a player can carry over that success into the regular season, but it’s not common.
There are too many variables to judge most positions in the preseason. Running back, however, is one spot where you can get a pretty decent idea of what a player might be capable of.
The Lions’ second-round pick, Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, is definitely someone I expect to help the team succeed. Last year, Ameer Abdullah was the difference in some early-season wins but the team struggled to run the ball as the season went on.
If the Lions can finally become even a slight threat running the football, Matthew Stafford can put up elite numbers by doing less, as I wrote about in my fantasy projections.
Overall, the Lions are no threat to contend in 2018, however, it should be a fun season where they fight for a wild-card playoff spot and inspire hope for the future.