2016 Detroit Lions game-by-game predictions

The Detroit Lions have known who the franchise would be playing for months. They just didn't know the order. This schedule is different than in the past few years for Detroit because the Lions will play all 16 games inside the continental United States for the first time since 2013. They also will face premier talent, including J.J. Watt, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo and Drew Brees -- all on the road.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11, at Indianapolis Colts, 4:25 p.m. ET

A homecoming game for Jim Caldwell opens the season. The Lions coach will get to see the player the Colts drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 a few months after Caldwell was fired, Andrew Luck. Indianapolis should be a lot better than it was last season with a healthy Luck running the show, and it should be enough for the Colts to win. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18, vs. Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. ET

It's tough to know what to expect from the Titans since the franchise picked up a bevy of draft picks Thursday. Figure Ezekiel Ansah to have a good day in this one, no matter who the Tennessee left tackle. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25, at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

Yes, the Lions won in Green Bay last season. That was without Jordy Nelson, and it was also a game in which Green Bay's offense looked less than sharp for the majority of the contest. No reason to think that'll happen again in Wisconsin. The streak may be over, but Detroit's winning streak in Green Bay ends at 1. At least Detroit knows it won't snow or play in subzero temps this time around. Record: 1-2

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have won three straight games in Chicago -- most of them because of the stellar play of receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson won't be with Detroit this time around -- he played his final game at Soldier Field in January. Chicago should be better than the past two seasons, meaning a split for the season. Record: 1-3

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET

The Eagles were a mess when the Lions beat them last season. It's a new offense and the return (again) of Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. Expect Philadelphia to pressure Matthew Stafford. But Schwartz is still building this defense to his liking, so the Lions should be able to handle it. Record: 2-3

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. ET

The Rams traded up to the No. 1 pick, presumably to take a quarterback. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin should have fun scheming against that. The Rams had a good game plan for Detroit last season, but the Lions should be better prepared for Todd Gurley this time around. Record: 3-3

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, vs. Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET

Kirk Cousins gets a homecoming game. It likely won't go well. Washington and Detroit appear to have similar rosters talent-wise. When that happens, it typically bodes well for the home team. Record: 4-3

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET

Yes, no one knows what to expect out of the Texans' quarterback play. But considering Detroit's inability to upgrade on the offensive line, it could be a long game for Matthew Stafford. J.J. Watt will be a problem for anyone he's lining up against. Plus, DeAndre Hopkins vs. Darius Slay could be one of the better singular matchups between a receiver and corner this season. Record: 4-4

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

The Vikings should have the best team in the division and certainly the best defense. The Lions were unable to protect Matthew Stafford at all against the Vikings last season. Considering the lack of offensive-line upgrades, Stafford isn't likely to get much time this season, either. Record: 4-5

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET

The Jaguars have one of the more intriguing young offenses in the NFL and should be able to put up a bunch of points. The defense remains questionable, and that's an area where Detroit should still be strong despite the offensive questions. As long as the Lions keep this low-scoring, they should win, especially after a week off. Record: 5-5

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, vs. Minnesota Vikings, 12:30 p.m. ET

The Lions have been consistently good at home on Thanksgiving Day the past three seasons, annihilating the Packers, Bears and Eagles. Minnesota could be the best team in the division and has a bunch of young talent, so Detroit's run of winning on Thanksgiving comes to an end in a close loss. Record: 5-6

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions won in New Orleans last season, but don't expect the Saints to be the struggling franchise they were the past two seasons. The Superdome is still a tough place to play, and the Lions and Saints are likely to be in another high-powered offensive game. When that happens, go with the Hall of Fame quarterback. Record: 5-7

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have won six straight against Chicago and four of the past five against the Bears in Detroit. While the Bears should be improved from last season, the Lions have been the better franchise and should continue the home portion of the winning streak. Record: 6-7

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET

The Giants have a new coach and the same old quarterback in Eli Manning. New York hasn't been a good team the past three seasons, finishing third in a mediocre NFC East all three times. The Lions steal one in New York in part because this Giants team is not quite talented enough to win against teams with better-than-average quarterbacks. Record: 7-7

Week 16: Monday, Dec. 26, at Dallas Cowboys, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Lions will remember the last time they were in Jerry World -- it ended the 2014 season and was Ndamukong Suh's final game with Detroit. The Cowboys should have their explosive offense back with Tony Romo. Don't expect this game to be as close as the playoff game after the 2014 season since Dallas' roster looks better right now if healthy. But the Cowboys and Lions will be on national TV, one of two such games for Detroit this season.

Record: 7-8

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have split against the Packers the past three seasons and were a Hail Mary away from sweeping Green Bay for the first time. The Lions have a much different roster now, but a split against the Packers is likely based on the pressure Detroit can put on Aaron Rodgers. It might help if Green Bay has wrapped up a playoff berth by this point. Record: 8-8