Over the next week or so I will preview the Lions' entire 2008 schedule. Below is the first part of this series, which previews the month of September.
September 7 - at Atlanta Falcons
Out of all the times to play the Falcons, the first game of the season certainly is the best. Atlanta's QB situation should be interesting to watch as rookie Matt Ryan likely will be the starter. With no regular season snaps under his belt coming into this game, that lack of experience hopefully will give Detroit an advantage.
Outside of the QB position, the Falcons just aren't a very good team. They had one of the worst records in the NFL last season, and although they should be better in 2008, early on they are expected to struggle, at least by me anyways.
On paper: Advantage Lions
Prediction: It would take an awful game for Detroit to come out on the losing end. I'm not saying that's not possible as it is the Lions we're talking about, but Atlanta's lack of experience at quarterback should be enough for Detroit to start the season 1-0.
September 14 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Similar to the Falcons, the Packers' quarterback situation will be interesting to watch. With Brett Favre now retired, Aaron Rodgers will finally get his chance to step in as the starting QB. He did look good when he filled in for an injured Favre for part of the Cowboys game last season, but being the starting QB is a completely different thing then playing part of a game.
Even with a lack of experience at QB, the Packers are still a very good team. After all, they did make it to the NFC Championship Game last season, and if it weren't for a careless interception in overtime by Favre, who knows what would have happened in that game.
Green Bay's strength is without a doubt their defense. Aaron Rodgers will have to play well for them to win, but it is the defense that should carry this team. For that reason, I have to give the Packers a very slim advantage on paper. That doesn't mean I think they will win the game, though.
On paper: Advantage Packers
Prediction: I have a feeling the Lions will come away with a close victory in this game. Despite having a better defense, the Packers do have an inexperienced Aaron Rodgers at QB. If he plays a great game then GB wins, but in only the second game of the season, I don't see that happening. For that reason, I predict the Lions will start off the year 2-0.
September 21 - at San Francisco 49ers
The Lions wrap up the month of September (they have a bye on the 28th) by heading out west to play the 49ers. The storyline surrounding this game likely will be Mike Martz facing his former team for the first time, and I'm sure Martz will contribute to it with some outrageous comment. He has been bashing the Lions ever since taking the offensive coordinator job with the 49ers, so this is the Lions' chance for some revenge.
Although SF doesn't have an inexperienced quarterback, their offense will be in only its third regular season game under Martz's complicated new system. They should have it down for the most part by then, but I imagine there still will be some kinks to work out.
Defensively, I already am envisioning 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis having a big game. He is a beast and will thrive against a weak Lions offensive line. Jon Kitna will need to keep his eyes peeled for Willis. Then again, it won't be hard to do that when he is bringing you to the ground over and over.
On paper: Advantage Lions (Willis can only do so much)
Prediction: I don't know if this is the Kool-Aid talking or what, but believe it or not, I have the Lions starting off the season 3-0. Out of the first three games this one worries me the most as being a possible letdown, but the 49ers aren't very good. Look for a low-scoring affair hopefully resulting in a Lions victory. This is one of those games where Jason Hanson will be a busy man, and in a battle of kickers he will lead Detroit to victory.
Recap: As I said, I have the Lions starting the year 3-0. If they want any shot at making the playoffs, a 3-0 start will almost have to happen as the rest of the schedule is brutal. The worst-case scenario for September is 1-2 in my opinion as there is no way the Lions should start out their first month without a victory. At the same time, the best-case scenario is what I laid out to you as 3-0 is definitely a realistic possibility.
Any thoughts on what Detroit will do in September? Leave a comment with your own prediction.