We’ve been down this road before.
Preseason success leads to astronomical expectations for the regular season, only to lead to disappointment when we realize the Detroit Lions’ opponents treated the preseason games for exactly what they were: games that don’t count.
Do I even have to bring up the perfect preseason of 2008?
That’s what I thought.
According to some, however, this preseason is different. We have some real talent on both sides of the football. Our head coach isn’t a doofus. We have a real Monday Night Football game on the schedule, which means somebody at ESPN thinks we’re okay.
Does all of this mean a football resurgence at Ford Field? Or is it impossible to have a resurgence if there was a never a, ahem, surgence to begin with?
Or, am I just guzzling Kool-Aid?
What follows is a prediction of every Lions game this season, based only on pre-conceived notions and learnings I’ve gained flipping through magazines. So if I’m way off, you can blame the “experts.”
Let’s dive in.
Game 1: Lions @ Buccaneers
This is probably the most important game of the season for the Lions. A win to open the season on the road against an improved Buccaneers team would satisfy not only the team, but the fans and media.. A loss and it becomes the same old Lions that cannot win on the road. Josh Freeman had a great second-half last season, but so did the Lions. So, which out of those two situations carries over into the 2011 season? I take the Lions. I think, for once, they’re the more experienced team. I see them winning a squeaker, and starting off the season right.
Prediction: Lions 24, Buccaneers 17
Game 2: Chiefs @ Lions
Matt Cassel is not a very good quarterback. After his coming out party as the Patriots starting quarterback in 2008, he parlayed that performance into a nice little contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Predictably, he’s been unable to duplicate that success. If you’re listening to fantasy football prognosticators before the season starts, he’s one of those avoid-at-most-costs guys. Their running game is good, but I like the Lions D better at home. Lions win handily.
Prediction: Lions 38, Chiefs 17
Game 3: Lions @ Vikings
I hate that stupid Viking horn that they blow at the Mall of America Field whenever the Vikings do something good. Ba - whooooooooooooooo! Luckily, it appears they’ll be blowing it less because the Vikings are going to be average, at best. Does this mean the Lions can steal one in Minnesota? Perhaps. It depends on which version of Donovan McNabb shows up. He’s better than that Favre guy, which means Adrian Peterson will have some more room to run. Even though I originally marked this as a win, I think it will be tough to win two in a row on the road. Vikings win with a field goal in overtime.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Lions 24
Game 4: Lions @ Cowboys
If the Lions are going to contend for a playoff spot, they will have to win a game that they are not expected to win. This is that game. A “Shootout in Big D” it will be called, I’m sure. The Cowboys played like a real football team last year after Jason Garrett took over as head coach, but they were not good before. Was it a matter of teams sleeping on them, after they started 1-7? Or was Garrett living up to the expectations held over him? Either way, neither defense is going to have a fun game. I think this gets the Lions to 3-1 after a tough four games to start the season.
Prediction: Lions 38, Cowboys 35
Game 5: Bears @ Lions
For the first time in 10 years, the Lions will host a Monday Night Football game. With a 3-1 record under their belt, the Lions (and their fans) should be keyed up for this game against a divisional rival. This is also the first of three straight home games for the Lions, and we know they’re a much better team at home. With a crowd behind them that has been tailgating since noon, the Lions will roll.
Prediction: Lions 34, Bears 10
Game 6: 49ers @ Lions
If the game against the Chiefs was an easy win, this one’s a no-doubter. In the past, the Lions would lose a game like this, like, 13-10. They would frustrate the hell out of their fans and leave them scratching their heads as to how this happened. In 2011? It won’t (can’t?) happen. The Lions are too good (I think) to bumble away this victory. Make it two blowouts in a row.
Prediction: Lions 35, 49ers 13
Game 7: Falcons @ Lions
If my predictions so far hold true, the Lions will come into this monster NFC showdown with a record of 5-1. A loss, and they still remain in the hunt for the playoffs. A win and they put themselves in a great position to get even closer, especially with the next two games being winnable games. Unfortunately, the Falcons are a good team. This is the year where Matt Ryan will come into his own, and maybe, just maybe, take this team back to the Super Bowl. I don’t think the Lions D has enough surface-to-air missiles to stop this attack.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Lions 17
Game 8: Lions @ Broncos
I haven’t followed the Broncos that closely, aside from occasional nuggets about Tim Tebow, but I think they’re going to be one of the worst teams in the league. They don’t have a running game. Their passing game is mediocre. They are led by one of the most un-charismatic quarterbacks in the game today in the guise of Kyle Orton. (Yes. QB personality factors into my decisions.) The Lions are learning to win on the road. Barring a snowstorm, I think they’ll steal one.
Prediction: Lions 21, Broncos 14
Game 9: Lions @ Bears
I understand that predicting a Lions win in Chicago would mean they have won three games in a row on the road, but I think all of them are winnable. The Bears offense is anemic. Not even the genius of Mike Martz can save it from being putrid. Jay Cutler’s statistics have dropped in each of the past three years. What makes you think he’ll get better? I predict Cutler is yelling at his teammates by the end of this game. Lions also get retribution for Calvin Johnson not following the football motion last year.
Prediction: Lions 27, Bears 10
Game 10: Panthers @ Lions
Can the Lions start 8-2? Yes! They! Can! Especially with a pretty doable schedule. The good news is that they’ll handle Carolina handily. The bad news is that the easy part of their schedule ends after this week. It’s a good thing they got the victories when they could.
Prediction: Lions 30, Panthers 10
Game 11: Packers @ Lions
Oh, that’s right. We still haven’t seen the Packers. Well, here they are. Just in time for Thanksgiving. The Lions could be 8-2 on Thanksgiving, which would make FOX happy as they would finally broadcast a meaningful game in Detroit (and maybe this would suspend talk about removing the tradition from Detroit?) Aside from the MNF game, this is the game you want to win. The only difference, really, is that the fans have 8 hours less to tailgate. That’s probably a good thing, though. Unfortunately, the Packers are a much stiffer test than the Bears, and it will show on the scoreboard. The Lions are good, but not that good.
Prediction: Packers 28, Lions 14
Game 12: Lions @ Saints
The last time the Lions played New Orleans, they got embarrassed, so this game will be a good barometer to see just how far this team has come. Unfortunately, not much has changed in New Orleans. If anything, they’ve gotten better. They should have an improved running game, and Drew Brees is in a contract year. There is a reason why quite a few people like the Saints to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year.
Prediction: Saints 35, Lions 24
Game 13: Vikings @ Lions
If the Lions lose a close game in Minnesota, it’s only fair that they win a close game in Detroit, eh? That’s how I see it playing out with the Vikings. By this point in the season, the Vikings could be starting Christian Ponder to see if he has a future. If that’s the case, the Lions can rest a little easier.
Prediction: Lions 27, Vikings 20
Game 14: Lions @ Raiders
A win in Oakland puts the Lions’ road record for the season at 5-2 with one to go. I know this sounds ridiculous, coming from a team that recently lost 26 games in a row on the road, but the schedule away from home sets up nice this season. Although they have to fly across the country for this one, I think they’re a better team than the Raiders.
Prediction: Lions 21, Raiders 17
Game 15: Chargers @ Lions
The Chargers are another sexy pick to win the championship, even though Norv Turner has never shown an ability to live up to expectations. Regardless, at this point in the season, you have to think the Chargers will come into Detroit raring to go. With a lot of pressure now on the Lions, I think they falter.
Prediction: Chargers 31, Lions 20
Game 16: Lions @ Packers
Hey! Did you know the Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since 1991? Let’s hope the Lions don’t have to go to Lambeau Field to win a game to gain entry into the playoffs, because that probably won’t happen. Even if the Packers aren’t playing for anything, I can’t see them laying down to a divisional opponent; especially an opponent they’ve dominated at home. Make it an even 20 years for the Lions to be winless in Green Bay.
Prediction: Packers 23, Lions 16
Final record: 10-6
This final record almost feels like one victory too many, but aside from an upset win over the Cowboys, I stand firmly behind the rest of my victory picks, and I’m not going to change mine.
Unless we’ve all been duped harder than we’ve ever been duped, I think we can finally say that the Lions are a team with a future (just like the city of Detroit?). If there was ever a schedule that lends itself well to a team looking to make a jump, this it.
The question is: Can the Lions take advantage of it?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Pass the Kool-Aid.