Breakdown: A 2011 playoff appearance, along with the quarterback-receiver combination of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, was enough to earn the Detroit Lions four prime-time games and a total of five nationally televised games.
The Lions will play at the San Francisco 49ers (Sunday night) in Week 2, at the Chicago Bears (Monday night) in Week 7 and at the Green Bay Packers (Sunday night) in Week 14, and will host the Atlanta Falcons (Saturday night) in Week 16. As usual, they'll also play Thanksgiving Day, hosting the Houston Texans in the early time slot (12:30 p.m. ET).
It's the first time in 14 years the Lions have had five nationally televised games and the second time in their history that four of them will come in prime time.
Complaint department: I'm not a huge fan of the Week 5 bye. Generally you would like to see it closer to the middle of the season to maximize injury rehabilitation. But it will give the Lions a chance to regroup for a difficult two-game stretch immediately after the bye. They'll play at the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6 and then at the Bears.
Bracketing the schedule: The Lions play four of their first six games on the road, a stretch that includes the aforementioned bye. My first-blush reaction is that the Lions should be happy to be 3-3 at that point after traveling to San Francisco, Tennessee, Philadelphia and Chicago. But the payoff comes at the end of the season. A team in the playoff chase couldn't ask for anything more than to play its final two games at home. The Lions will do just that, hosting the Falcons in Week 16 and the Bears in Week 17 in a game that better be as much fun as it looks like from here.
Lions Regular-Season Schedule (All times ET)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at San Francisco, 8:20 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 22, at Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, Seattle, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, Houston, 12:30 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Green Bay, 8:20 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Arizona, 4:05 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 22, Atlanta, 8:30 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, Chicago, 1:00 PM