The 2021 NFL schedule has been released and the Detroit Lions opponents for the season are now known. So far, we have given our top-10 immediate thoughts, had some fun with our game-by-game predictions, and now is a good time to look at the five best and five worst parts of the Lions’ upcoming schedule.
Good: Open at home
It’s always nice to open at home to kick off a new era of football, regardless of the opponent. With the preseason cut to three games, the Lions’ final preseason game being at home, and the preseason schedule not being altered on the calendar (giving teams an extra week of camp), Lions coach Dan Campbell will get a significant amount of time to prep for his first regular-season game as head coach.
Bad: Visit Lambeau on “MNF” in Week 2
While Campbell and the Lions get a break in Week 1, their first road game is pretty rough, visiting Lambeau field under the national spotlight of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The Lions always find themselves on the short end of the stick in this scenario, but hey, maybe part of the culture change is to get this monkey off their back.
Good: Lions get their road division games out of the way early
By the conclusion of Week 5, the Lions will have already traveled to Green Bay, Chicago, and Minnesota. This is a difficult way to start the season, but if the Lions can squeak out a win in one of these games, they’ll set themselves up nicely for when they host their division rivals later on during the season.
Side note: the Lions draw the Vikings on October 10, and Detroit has won every game that they have played on this date since the 21st century began.
Bad: 10 of the 14 teams they face made the playoffs at least once in the last two years
The Lions schedule is full of teams who played and won in the NFL Playoffs either last year or the year before. In fact, three teams made the playoffs both years (Packers, Ravens, and Seahawks) and seven of the teams made the playoffs in 2020 — that’s half the teams that were in the playoffs last year. Brutal.
Good: They face 3 of the 4 non-playoff teams down the stretch
Of the four opponents that failed to make the playoffs over the last two seasons, the Lions will face three of them (Broncos, Cardinals, and Falcons) in the month of December. If the Lions are somehow relevant after Thanksgiving, Week’s 14-16 could be an advantageous stretch for them.
Bad: The Bears on Thanksgiving... again
I mean, c’mon already. I’m all for a division rivalry, but facing the Bears three times in the four years on Thanksgiving Day is getting stale.
Good: Denver in December could mean snow!
Playing in the snow is enjoyable. And it can be even more so if you have a team that is rooted in rushing the football. The Lions say they want to run the football, they’ve invested in running backs and the offensive line. And they have put former running backs in coaching positions of power (offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and running backs/assistant head coach Duce Staley are both former NFL running backs). Let’s hope the investment pays off.
Bad: Lions finish the schedule with two juggernauts
Closing the season against the Seahawks (in Seattle) and the Packers is a very daunting task. If the Lions manage to stay afloat through Thanksgiving then take advantage of the three games we just highlighted in the previous section, these final two games could be heartbreakers.
Good: Week 17 and 18 could be good for #TeamTank
Then again, if the Lions are out of the race and fans are looking ahead towards the draft, these final two games will surely make #TeamTank happy as losses would help draft positioning.
Bad: Strength of schedule
Even in a rebuild, fans want their team to win games. That’s part of the enjoyment of sports. But, the Lions have the third most difficult strength of schedule, according to ESPN’s Mike Clay, and even a fully-built team would have a hard time ending the season with a winning record.