One of the biggest talking points this offseason was how daunting the Detroit Lions’ schedule looked for the 2017 season. The first eight games looked like a gauntlet, and road trips to Minnesota, New Orleans and New York didn’t seem like a great way to kick off the first half of the schedule.
But three weeks into the season, things are looking a little easier down the road. We still don’t know a lot about all of these teams, but we certainly know more than we did back in April when the schedule was first released.
So let’s look ahead to the next 13 games and see how our perceptions have changed through Week 3.
Many dismissed the Vikings this offseason because the Lions swept them in 2016 and some believed their offensive line upgrades were hardly upgrades from last year’s debacle. However, Minnesota looks pretty darn good, despite their Week 2 whooping at the hands of the Steelers.
The Panthers were one of those teams that people either saw making a huge bounceback after a disappointing season or remaining a basement dweller. The jury is still out on them, but the Saints’ dismantling of the Panthers last week proves there is still some work to do in Carolina.
Week 6 at Saints (1-2) - Beat Panthers, 34-13
The Saints may have humbled the Panthers this week, but they were thoroughly handled by the Vikings and Patriots in the previous two weeks. They look to be just as mediocre as believed in the offseason.
Week 8 vs. Steelers (2-1) - Lost to Bears, 17-23 (OT)
It’s very hard to get a handle on this Pittsburgh team through three weeks, but they certainly don’t look as invincible as many believed in the offseason. They barely got by against the Browns, but handled the Vikings pretty easily. However, this week’s loss to the Bears was inexcusable, and should give Lions fans hope, especially since they’ll have them on their home turf.
Here’s a recap of the Packers season so far:
- Edged out a seemingly bad Seahawks team
- Handled pretty thoroughly by the Falcons
- Needed overtime to defeat a horrible Bengals team
Of the three 2-1 NFC North teams, the Packers have looked the least impressive. They always tend to improve as the season rolls on, but right now they look very beatable.
Week 10 vs. Browns (0-3) - Lost to Colts, 28-31
The Browns are who we thought they were. They’re still a few years from being a truly competitive team.
Week 11 at Bears (1-2) - Beat Steelers, 23-17 (OT)
If there’s one team that looks significantly better than many expected, it’s the Bears. Though their record has met expectations, they, like the Lions, were inches away from beating the Falcons at home.
Granted, the Bears had a really bad game against the Bucs, but they can compete, and they’ll steal a few more games before the season is through.
Week 12 vs. Vikings (2-1) - Beat Buccaneers, 34-17
London will do some weird things to your team, so I don’t know how much we should read into Baltimore’s beatdown on Sunday. However, their two wins came against the Browns and Bengals, so they’ve yet to really prove anything. This could easily be a big road win for the Lions.
Week 14 at Buccaneers (1-1) - Lost to Vikings, 17-34
A chic pick to be a breakout team in the NFC, the Bucs got absolutely humbled this Sunday by a Vikings team that looked miles ahead of Tampa. I think we may need to pump the breaks on the talk of Jameis Winston being the next great NFL quarterback. Through two games, he already has as many interceptions (3) as touchdowns (3).
Week 15 vs. Bears (1-2) - Beat Steelers, 23-17 (OT)
Week 16 at Bengals (0-3) - Lost to Packers, 24-27 (OT)
Is this the year it finally happens? Is this the year Marvin Lewis finally gets shown the door? The Bengals are a mess and even a fortunate start against the Packers wasn’t enough to notch their first win of the season.
This feels like a team on the verge of blowing everything up. Lewis. Andy Dalton. Everything.
It’s never easy to win on the road in the NFL, but at this point, the expectation is for Detroit to win this game.
Week 17 vs. Packers (2-1) - Beat Bengals, 24-27 (OT)
Record: 7-6 this week, 18-20 overall
The Lions’ schedule ahead doesn’t look all that daunting anymore. While the Vikings and Bears may be a little better than expected, teams in both the NFC South and the AFC North have all looked very flawed at times.
With the Packers, too, off to a slow start, the future for the Lions looks potentially bright. A win over the Vikings on Sunday would set forward a very positive outlook for the rest of the year.