Breakdown: The Detroit Lions were given no favors early in the 2016 season with three of their first four games on the road for the second consecutive season. While this year’s slate of games at Indianapolis, Green Bay and Chicago is a bit less daunting than the San Diego/Minnesota/Seattle road slate in 2015, it still will be extremely difficult. Provided Detroit can pick up a win in one of those road games (Chicago is the best bet), the Lions have a chance to go on a real run in October with three home games before a trip to Houston to close the month out. It’s a manageable schedule, but for the Lions to have a shot at the playoffs, Detroit probably needs to pick up six or seven wins before Week 13. The nationally televised game at Dallas in Week 16 on Monday Night Football will bring back a lot of memories, especially if the playoffs are still within reach for either the Cowboys or Lions.
Complaint department: The Lions certainly can take issue with the start of the season for the second consecutive year considering two of their tougher road games, theoretically, are in the first three games of the season. But there are opportunities for Detroit to string together a bunch of wins and momentum, particularly in October. Of course, the Lions thought the same thing was possible when last season’s schedule was released and Detroit started 1-6 before heading to London. Back-to-back road games at Houston and Minnesota will not be favorable for quarterback Matthew Stafford, especially if Detroit doesn’t find a way to fix its offensive line. J.J. Watt and Minnesota’s pressure defense could cause some major havoc. There’s a good chance Stafford will need that bye to heal his body after those two games.
The most intriguing stretch: The Lions have five home games in eight weeks (including the off week) in the middle of the season. Of those home games, the only one where the Lions would likely not be favored at this point would be against Minnesota on Thanksgiving. If Detroit can win all five of those home games, it could put the franchise in position to make a run at the playoffs. It’ll also give Detroit a chance to recover from what figures to be a tough opening stretch. Another perk for Detroit this season: Not having to go to Green Bay the last month of the season. The Lions instead play host to the Packers in the season finale.
Strength of schedule: T-27th, .465
Lions Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11, at Indianapolis, 4:25 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Los Angeles, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, Minnesota, 12:30 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at NY Giants, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Monday, Dec. 26, at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Green Bay, 1 p.m.