Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lions Schedule

Week 1 - @ Tampa
Week 2 - home for Kansas City
Week 3 - @ Minnesota
Week 4 - @ Dallas
Week 5 - home for Chicago on Monday night
Week 6 - home for San Fran
Week 7 - home for Atlanta
Week 8 - @ Denver
Week 10 - @ Chicago
Week 11 - home for Carolina
Week 12 - home for Green Bay - Thanksgiving
Week 13 - @ New Orleans
Week 14 - home for Minnesota
Week 15 - @ Oakland
Week 16 - home for San Diego
Week 17 - @ Green Bay


First of all, can you believe the Lions have a Monday night game?!? It's the first one since the infamous 35-0 shellacking against Mike Martz and the Rams in 2001. I'm a little surprised we're playing the Bears on Monday night, but I think that goes to prove that the Sunday night games have replaced the Monday nighters are the marquee game of the week. Does anyone outside of the midwest really want to watch Detroit play Chicago?

Looking at the schedule, obviously we have the six divisional games, and then we play the mighty NFC South and the dreadful AFC West. It's easy to think that the Saints, Falcons and Chargers games will be very difficult, but let's not give San Diego too much credit. That game being in Detroit gives me a decent feeling.

The extra games are going to be Dallas and San Fran, two of last season's biggest duds. Aside from two games against the defending champs and the dynamic offenses of Atlanta and New Orleans, I really don't see too many games on this schedule that can be deemed 'unwinnable.' Even the Saints showed some signs of weakness last year, losing to the Seahawks in the wildcard round.

Unlike previous years when you could look at the schedule and say "Meh, maybe we can squeeze out 5 wins," this year really looks promising. I'm trying not to get all wide-eyed and naive like some Lions fans do, but I'm just saying none of our opponents are powerhouses. Remember, we beat the Packers last year and won our last four games.

Now, this is the part where I remind you that Matthew Stafford is terrible, even when he is healthy. The problem is, I might be the only person on the face of the earth who realizes this. Obviously the NFL still thinks he's a rising star, otherwise they wouldn't have given Detroit a Monday night game. Because of Stafford's pathetic injuries, the word from NFL insiders is that Stafford is injury-prone and fragile, but will be great if he can stay on the field.

Where do they get that idea from? His barely .500 record at Georgia? His 3 wins in 2 years? Must be his career QB rating of 67.1, which is just a notch lower than the worst quarterback of all time, Joey Harrington, who compiled a 69.4 in six seasons. What makes anyone think Stafford is a star-in-the-making is beyond me, but alas, it's only April, so I'll leave the Stafford rant to a short paragraph.

The thing is, even if Stafford is mediocre, or bad, or downright terrible, the Lions could still contend for a playoff spot. Most likely, he'll be somewhere in the middle. Not great, not awful, inconsistent and average. Like I've said before, he's the next Jay Cutler. I'm okay with that. Heck, the Bears made it to the NFC Championship game.

People who expect Stafford to suddenly blossom into a Pro Bowler and a guy with a respectable completion percentage and half as many turnovers can realistically look at the Lions schedule and say we'll win 11 games. People like me who think Stafford will be close to worthless and milk the injuries for all they're worth see a modest 6 wins. But if Stafford plays medicore, or does us a tremendous favor and gets hurt, the Lions will win 8 or more. They really will. Let's break down the schedule, game by game.

Detroit beat Tampa last year, in Tampa, when Tampa really needed a win. We can win there again. Their defense won't be so banged up this time, so it won't be easy. But I'll give us a 40% chance of starting the season with a road victory.

Week two, we're home for the overrated Chiefs who lucked into the playoffs last year. They are this year's San Francisco, who everyone predicts to win the terrible division without realizing that they have terrible quarterback play and a braindead coach. But again, it won't be an easy win, because they have the untackalable Jamaal Charles. Lions have a 55% chance.

Next it's back on the road to Minnesota, who has a new coach in Leslie Frazier whom I respect and admire. He'll have that defense playing great. But who the heck will be their quarterback? Jake Locker maybe? I have no idea. It doesn't matter as long as they have AP. Lions have about a 40% chance on the road.

Going down to Dallas will be tougher than we expect, because Romo will be healthy and the Cowboys quit on Wade Phillips last year. They like the new coach, and they'll be a completely different team next season. They've still got loads of talent. But also disfunction. Detroit only has a 35% chance.

The Monday nighter will be exciting, and perfectly winnable since everybody forgets how dreadful Jay Cutler is. Chicago's defense as a whole is overrated, but Julius Peppers is unblockable. This will be a turnover-filled dogfight. I'll give Detroit a slight edge: 55%.

We should beat San Fran at home. They are working out too many kinks. They'll have a rookie QB or maybe Kevin Kolb. But Jim Harbaugh strikes me as a pretty good coach, so it won't be completely easy. Plus they have Patrick Willis. Detroit's chances are 65%.

Atlanta will be extremely tough, even at home. Unless we draft Prince Amukamara and he turns out to be very good, we'll have no chance of stopping Roddy White. Not to mention Michael Turner. The Falcons are the team to beat in the NFC. Lions chances are about 30%.

Following the very good Falcons we get the very bad Broncos, but going to Milehigh is never easy. I'm not sure if Champ Bailey will re-sign, and that will be key. Denver also has the #2 pick (probably DT Marcell Dareus) and a new coach, so they might not be wretched like last season. But as long as it's Kyle Orton, Detroit should be ok. Plus I think Bailey will be gone, so Megatron might have a great game. 70%.

After the bye we travel to Soldier Field, where we've had some success and we 'completed the process' of winning the game last year. As I mentioned earlier, Cutler is horrid. If it was 55% at home, it's probably about 40% at Chicago.

A home game against Carolina should be the easiest game on anyone's schedule this season. They will be led by either Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton, depending on who they take with the #1 pick. Both guys will stink. The defense there is repulsive, and they are one of the few teams with significantly less talent than the Lions. Let's call this an 80% win.

At home against the champs won't be easy or enjoyable. Rodgers is going to carve up the secondary like a Thanksgiving turkey. But let's say 30% since we're at home.

Going to the Superdome to play Drew Brees is a nightmare. The two best quarterbacks in the NFC in back-to-back weeks = ouch. This is the worst two weeks of Detroit's schedule by far, and makes it important for Detroit to rack up some wins early in the year. Chances in New Orleans are maybe 20%.

Since I gave them a 40% chance in Minnesota, it should be about 60% at home. The teams are pretty evenly matched.

Going to Oakland is a long trip, but that's the only fear I have about this game. Oakland is one of the many teams with no offensive identity or leader (though I expect them to acquire Vince Young), and the defense is solid but might be without Nnmadi Asomugha. If they lose the star cornerback, Detroit's chances skyrocket. I'll say there's a 20% chance Nnamdi stays in Oakland and thus a 65% chance Detroit wins this road game.

Like I said earlier, I'm not terrified of the Chargers. Yes, Phillip Rivers is a stud, but is he really a winner? He'll probably pile up 400 yards, but for some reason I feel like this game is winnable. Let's say 45%.

The last week of the season is the worst. AT Lambeau, where we haven't won in 20+ years. Fortunately, there's a chance that Green Bay will rest their starters if they've clinched the playoffs, and that might give Detriot a chance to snap the streak, and maybe make a playoff push of their own. Factoring in the rest-the-starters possibility, let's give Detroit a 25% chance, instead of the 10% chance I would give on a normal week.

Do the math, and Detroit has 755%, divided by 16 weeks, for a 47.18% chance of winning on any given week. I guess that makes them just a shade under 8-8.

Now, if we draft Amukamara, cut Stafford, sign Asomugha, and negotiate a deal with the NFLPA so there actually IS a season, you can bump that up to 10-6 and a playoff appearance, the first since 1999. Go Lions!

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