Here's why the Lions are the Chiefs' opponent on Sunday in London

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You might recall that my howls of displeasure were among the loudest last year when the Kansas City Chiefs relinquished a 2015 home game against the Detroit Lions for the NFL’s London project. That game will be played on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

I’m not going to revisit the arguments, at least not here. But one of the many of the things that set me off at the time was that the Lions, who haven’t played in Kansas City since 2003, are going to miss another turn at Arrowhead Stadium. They won’t be back until 2023, and that’s only if that game isn’t moved out of Kansas City then.

So most Chiefs fans will never get the chance to see Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson play in person. Neither is having a huge season, though Johnson is eighth in the NFL with 43 catches.

It’s still a shame they will go their careers without playing in Kansas City. I saw what both players could do when the Chiefs played against the Lions in Detroit in a 2011 game infamous in Kansas City because Jamaal Charles tore his ACL the first time around.

They’re both fun to watch. Few quarterbacks are as impressive to see as Stafford purely for his ability to throw. Few receivers have Johnson’s ability to go and get it.

But if the Chiefs were bound and determined to give up a home game, they had few realistic options but to make the Lions their opponents in London.

The Chiefs weren’t going to relinquish a divisional game regardless of how bad the NFL wanted, say, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on its London stage. For competitive reasons, that game as well as the ones against the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers was too important to ship out of Kansas City.

The Chiefs weren’t going to give up games against the Pittsburgh Steelers or the big-market Chicago Bears, either. Both teams travel well, bringing many fans from their home markets or elsewhere. That makes tickets for both games relatively easy to sell for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs weren’t going to play Buffalo in London since the Bills were already scheduled to play the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley. That game was played last week and won by the Jaguars.

That left the Lions or the Cleveland Browns as the realistic options. Neither team travels as well as the Bears or Steelers, so the Chiefs decided they could live without one game or the other being played in Kansas City.

At that point, the decision was easy. The NFL preferred the Lions, who have more star power than the Browns. They also are coming off a playoff season, though they currently have an inferior record (1-6) than that of the Browns (2-5).

So no Stafford or Johnson in Kansas City this year. But if Chiefs fans are lucky, they’ll get to see Dwayne Bowe make his return to Arrowhead as a member of the Browns on Dec. 27.