Detroit Lions game-by-game predictions

It's a tough schedule early and somewhat difficult late, but overall the Detroit Lions should be pleased with this schedule. It has a couple of night games -- both at home -- and the West Coast trips are at reasonable times during the year. Detroit may have wanted to have them back-to-back to stay out west, but having them in September and December is a reasonable consolation prize. But what happens in Matt Patricia's first year with Detroit? Based on this very, very early approximation -- more of the same of what Jim Caldwell did.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 10, vs. New York Jets, 7:10 p.m. ET

Good news for Patricia. He'll open his Lions tenure on national television against a team he might know better than any other in the league. And he might get to have his defense tested against either a journeyman (Josh McCown), a guy who hasn't played much the last two years (Teddy Bridgewater) or a rookie in his first-ever start. That bodes well for Detroit. Record: 1-0.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Niners are an ascending team that showed promise at the end of last season with Jimmy Garoppolo as a quarterback, and West Coast trips haven't ended well for the Lions in recent years. But Detroit has a benefit here. In theory, Patricia has faced Garoppolo over and over and over again during Patriots practices. So he knows what could confuse him. Without a huge book on what the Lions will do defensively, that helps. Record: 2-0

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, vs. New England Patriots, 8:20 p.m. ET

Bill Belichick knows all about Patricia. He legitimately taught him much of what he knows in the NFL. And Tom Brady is still, as we can tell, Tom Brady. As long as he's playing and Belichick is coaching, the Patriots are winning because New England just has more talent. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m. ET

The Cowboys have questions at receiver but own one of the top rushing attacks in the league. This should be a high-scoring game, but the Lions have not shown they have a run defense that can handle the combination of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

This isn't Week 17 and isn't in prime time, so that's a good thing for the Lions against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers' offense isn't as impressive on paper as in years past and Detroit's offense should be better than it was a year ago. That should be enough for a split against Green Bay (yes, that's foreshadowing Week 17). Record: 3-2

Week 6: Bye

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Miami has questions at quarterback, no longer have Jarvis Landry on offense or Ndamukong Suh on defense. The Lions have more talent on both sides of the ball and a better quarterback. That's enough. Record: 4-2.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Seattle Seahawks, 1 p.m. ET

These are not the Seahawks of old. Michael Bennett (Philadelphia), Richard Sherman (San Francisco), Sheldon Richardson (Minnesota) and even DeShawn Shead (Detroit) are all gone from a once-dominant defense. That should make things easier for Matthew Stafford. Plus, traveling across the country is never easy. Record: 5-2

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have had success in Minnesota the past two seasons, but the Vikings got better in the offseason, are the best team in the division and potentially the best in the NFC. Detroit, meanwhile, still might not be able stop the run, particularly when there's a more consistent passing attack to complement it. Record: 5-3

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET

The Bears should be better than last year and Detroit has always had awkwardly tough games in Soldier Field (although recently they've won). I'm going to throw a wrench into the schedule here and predict that on a cold, blustery, snowy afternoon this ends in a rough, not-that-exciting 3-0 game. Record: 6-3

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET

Carolina beat Detroit up last year and, as always, this will come down to Cam Newton. If Newton is playing well, then the Panthers become increasingly difficult to deal with. The team's multitude of tall offensive weapons won't help, either. Record: 6-4

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, vs. Chicago Bears, 12:30 p.m. ET

The Lions have won five straight at home against Chicago. As mentioned before, the Bears are better and have a bunch of nice offensive pieces. But Detroit's offense, at home, in the midst of trying to stay in the playoff picture, handles Chicago in a nationally televised spot. Record: 7-4

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. ET

This is the nightmare game for Detroit -- seeing what could have been with Aaron Donald and Suh lined up next to each other in the middle of the Rams defense. Add to that question marks on the Detroit offensive line (particularly on the interior) and Stafford could be scrambling a lot in this one. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9 at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Cardinals are in the middle of what appears to be a rebuild. New quarterback, some new defensive pieces. Arizona might have figured out some of it, but the Lions should be the better team and playing in a comfortable, not-too-hot, environment. Record: 8-5

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET

No idea what to make of this Bills team at this point. But a cold-weather game -- and it'll be cold in Buffalo -- doesn't bode well for a team that will still need to throw the ball a bunch to win. This game might be the difference between a wild-card berth and not. Record: 8-6

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

Minnesota is the better team, but the Lions -- knowing they need to win to stay in the playoff race -- have their best offensive game of the season and find ways to protect Stafford against a defense that has given the Lions issues. Record: 9-6

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have had recent success in Green Bay, winning two of the last three seasons at Lambeau. This is going to be a cold-weather game, though, and there could be a bunch on the line for both teams. And if there's one thing that happens in late-season games against the Packers in games that matter for Detroit, it's that Green Bay wins. So expect more of the same as long as Rodgers is healthy. Record: 9-7