Besides their mandatory home and away games against the teams in their own division, the Lions couldn't have asked for a softer 2016 schedule.
True, the Green Bay Packers remain the class of the NFC North, and those pesky Minnesota Vikings seem to be coming on. Da Bears? Well.....
But that leaves ten other games to be played. Check them out.
@ New Orleans
@New York Giants
Indy is decent but hardly great.
Tennessee remains terrible.
Philly is in total rebuild mode.
The recently relocated LA Rams will likely be starting a rookie quarterback.
The Redskins are projected to be lousy.
Houston? When's the last time they were any good -- as in ever?
The Jags? See Houston above.
The Saints appear to be on their way to becoming the Aints again.
The Giants are ushering in a brand new head coach, and Eli's still dumber than a brick.
The Cowboys went 4-12 last year.
Add it all up plus throw in the fact the Lions absolutely killed it in the draft (according to them and their ever-faithful fans and scribes -- what else is new?) and the long maligned Honolulu blue and silver puddy-tats should steam-roll through the season. At least 10-6, maybe even 12-4. What could go wrong? Of course, given their long sordid history, asking what could go wrong with the Lions is more than a little oxymoronic. Perhaps on a par with the late Rodney Dangerfield's ever elusive respect factor.
Still, on pre-season paper at least, the Motowners should have a shot at not only turning in a respectful season, but maybe even making some noise in the playoffs. A first indeed.
But the odds-makers aren't buying it. The over/under on Lions' wins this year is 7. In other words they figure them to go 7-9 for yet another ho-hum season.
Worse yet, many "experts" (see talking heads) are picking the "under". They expect the Lions to win no more than 6 games.
Why? Mostly because of the retirement of Calvin Johnson. Few would doubt the Lions, and QB Matthew Stafford relied heavily on the former "Megatron" when they needed a big play. Probably too much so. Heave the ball in the general direction of Calvin and hope he catches it. Oftentimes he would. Both Stafford and Johnson racked up gaudy passing stats over the years with this strategy.
But it wasn't nearly enough to put the Lions in the position of being serious contenders. The other teams knew what was coming, and while Calvin might have made his sensational catches over the years, he was also made to pay a brutal price. As in getting hit hard and often. In the last couple years, he could barely practice because his legs were so banged up. A six foot five guy can usually out-jump much shorter corners and safeties to haul in a pass, but he's going to get hammered a millisecond after the reception. It takes its toll.
Kudos to Calvin Johnson for getting out with his mind and body still pretty much intact. He's certainly got enough money to keep him comfortable for the rest of his life.
Yet one could wonder -- why in the hell did Calvin Johnson sign onto a long term contract with the Lions -- effectively for the duration of his career -- when he could have been a highly coveted free agent years ago and gone to a team with a realistic shot at a Super Bowl? Something that was never going to happen in Detroit. Tell me Tom Brady of the Patriots wouldn't have dearly loved to have such a wide-out to throw to -- and I'll tell you I don't believe it. They would have FOUND a way to make cap room. And Calvin might have got a ring. He may or may not eventually make it into the Hall of Fame -- how voters will look at him 5 years down the road is a good question -- but poor Calvin never got to win even a single playoff game during all his years with the Lions. Was it his own fault for staying there? Sure. Dude was from Georgia, born and bred. His misguided loyalty to the dregs of Detroit for his entire pro career could be considered quite foolish indeed.
The over/under win total at 7 given such a weak schedule for the Lions? And many going with the under? Oh my.
Then again, it's just another year, and they ARE still the Lions -- right?
What could go wrong, go wrong, go wrong..........