By Dylan Wittenberg
The 2017 Detroit Lions schedule was released last Thursday, April 20th, a week in advance of the 2017 NFL Draft. Initial pundits have the Lions hovering at or just below .500 with a schedule that includes five games on prime time national television: Sunday Night Football home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Monday Night Football away against the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, Saturday afternoon home against the Chicago Bears, and Thanksgiving Day home against the Minnesota Vikings. These games are within a 16 game slate that sets the Lions against the NFC South and the AFC North.
Here is a game by game preview of the first half of the Lions 2017 schedule:
WEEK 1: HOME VS ARIZONA CARDINALS, SUNDAY 1:00PM
Cardinals’ 16 Record: 7-8-1
The Cardinals come into 2017 with a lot of young and aging talent. A lot of excitement will surround Bruce Arians’ team that’s led by star third year running back David Johnson. Johnson is a do it all rushing and receiving back that can transform an offense. If Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald can stay and PLAY healthy, the Cardinals can be a dangerous team. That said, the Lions have been decently successful as of late in opening weeks, winning 7 of their last season openers. It be the first regular season look at Rod Wood’s new Ford Field and the Lions new uniforms. Besides the asthetics, the Lions look like a team that is improved from last year. For the first time in possibly decades, the Lions’ offensive line, now led by T.J. Lang and star second year tackle Taylor Decker, needs no help. The offense looks unchanged from a year ago, but it did plenty to win enough games last year. Also, the defense should be improved given that Bob Quinn’s draft plans seem to be focused on that side of the ball. Put all that together, and the Lions win at home in front of a raucous crowd.
Final: Cardinals 20, Lions 31
WEEK 2: AWAY VS NEW YORK GIANTS, MNF 8:30PM
Giants’ 2016 Record: 11-5
The Giants are coming off a great season that led to a Wild Card appearance and an 11-5 record. These two teams faced off last season in Week 15 at Metlife Stadium, with the Giants going on to win 17-6. That said, the Lions blew many opportunities down the stretch and certainly had a chance to win the game. This time, the weather will be much warmer and conditions should be much better. Also, the Lions will be coming off an opening season win and ready to prove that they are a team that is capable to go on the road and win big games. The Lions stun many and beat the Giants on a Matt Prater field goal in the final seconds.
Final: Lions 21, Giants 20
WEEK 3: HOME VS ATLANTA FALCONS, SUNDAY 1:00PM
Falcons’ 2016 Record: 11-5
The Falcons are coming off of an appearance-and loss-in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. The scary thing is that they even look better. Not only has the team’s defense gotten more mature and stronger, bolstered by the outstanding Vic Beasley, but its offense is uinbelievably good. Led by 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan and the best receiver in the NFL in Julio Jones, this Falcons offense could put up record breaking numbers in 2017. Not even an undefeated Lions team at Ford Field could hold them back. The Falcons win a game that is close until late.
Final: Falcons 34, Lions 24
WEEK 4: AWAY VS MINNESOTA VIKINGS, SUNDAY 1:00PM
Vikings’ 2016 Record: 8-8
The Vikings are coming off a year in they faltered down the stretch after a scorching start. Besides a rough end to 2016, the team’s outlook in 2017 isn’t much better. They are still without Teddy Bridgewater, and his future prospect in the league is not bright. Along with that, the team is now without star running back Adrian Peterson. The defense and offense have not improved at all. That said, playing in Minnesota is very difficult, and it will not be a walk in the park for the Lions. But an early season loss will humble Jim Caldwell’s team, and the Lions will pull out a victory in Minnesota.
Final: Lions 28, Vikings 20
WEEK 5: HOME VS CAROLINA PANTHERS, SUNDAY 1:00PM
Panthers’ 2016 Record: 6-10
The Lions go into this game riding with a 3-1 record and coming off a big win on the road against a divisional opponent. The Panthers, led by 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton, are coming off a strange year with many questionable pieces in place. The most important of said questionable pieces is Ron Rivera, the team’s head coach. Rivera has never seemed to have too much control of the team, even when they went to the Super Bowl in 2016. 2017 will start off flat for the Panthers, and they will continue to have a hard time finding their way in a bouncing Ford Field. The Lions start hot and finish slow in this game but hold on to win.
Final: Panthers 24, Lions 31
WEEK 6: AWAY VS NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, SUNDAY 1:00PM
Saints’ 2016 Record: 7-9
The Lions go into this game on fire with a 4-1 record. The Saints, now looking like a team that will be improved both defensively and offensively with the potential addition of Malcolm Butler and the addition Adrian Peterson, always play well at home. The Lions beat the Saints last year in the Mercedes Benz Super Dome, and the Saints will be looking for revenge. Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford will have another slug fest, but the Saints will slightly get the best of the Lions.
Final: Lions 27, Saints 34
WEEK 7: BYE
WEEK 8: HOME VS PITTSBURGH STEELERS, SUNDAY 8:30PM
In most cases, the Steelers will have the upper hand the Lions. A team led by Ben Roethlisberger, Leveon Bell, and Antonio Brown on offense and Ryan Shazier and James Harrison on defense will get the best of most, if not all, NFL teams. That noted, the Lions will get two weeks to prepare for a Steelers team with only one loss up to this point. In a prime time game, at home, and on national television, the Lions have a perfect chance to not only put themselves in first place for the NFC North but prove that they are a contender. And they do so, with Darrius Slay locking down Antonio Brown and Lions rookies stepping up. Ford Field will be as loud as its ever been, and the Lions go on to win by 10 points.
Final: Steelers 28, Lions 38
The second half’s predictions will be released in a few days on wbfh.fm/sports.