Early-season stretch critical for the Detroit Lions' success in 2017

Matthew Stafford's 71.6 QBR last season was his highest since entering the league in 2009. Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released its 2017 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Detroit Lions.

Breakdown: This schedule isn’t bad for the Lions at all. There is only one stretch with three of four weeks on the road, and that’s at the end of the season. The toughest stretch of the season -- home against Pittsburgh and at Green Bay -- come in prime time but are sandwiched with a bye before the Steelers game and a contest against the rebuilding Browns after Green Bay. A critical stretch comes at the start of the season with games against Arizona, the Giants, Atlanta, Minnesota and Carolina. That three of those games are at home, again, is a fair shake for Detroit and should tell a lot about this year's team. It’s a manageable schedule that could bode well for the Lions if they can navigate their home games.

A repeat Thanksgiving: The Lions will face Minnesota on Thanksgiving for the second straight season. Last year, Detroit won a thriller against the Vikings, 16-13, in a game that solidified the Lions as playoff contenders. Matthew Stafford had a good day against the Vikings, completing 23 of 40 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. And like the Lions did over and over again last year, Detroit won the game in the final minute, this time on a game-winning field goal by Matt Prater at the buzzer. Another close game should follow this year.

Back in prime time: After two prime-time games last season -- a Monday Night game at Dallas and the flexed Sunday night finale against Green Bay -- the Lions are back on the prime-time schedule with more regularity in 2017. That includes back-to-back night games in Weeks 8 and 9 against Pittsburgh at home and then on the road at division rival Green Bay. There’s also a Week 2 Monday night game against the Giants in New York. The late-season schedule offers some interesting flex options with Tampa Bay in Week 14, Cincinnati in Week 16 and the Packers, at home, in the regular-season finale.

Strength of schedule: T-21st, .469

Lions' regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, Arizona, 1 p.m.

  • Week 2: Monday, Sept. 18, at NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, Atlanta, 1 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, Carolina, 1 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: BYE

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 9: Monday, Nov. 6, at Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, Cleveland, 1 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, at Chicago, 1 p.m.

  • Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 23, Minnesota, 12:30 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

  • Week 15: Saturday, Dec. 16, Chicago, 4:30 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, Green Bay, 1 p.m.