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The Detroit Lions’ ‘easy’ 2022 schedule was a mirage

Preseason strength of schedule ratings are useless. The Detroit Lions’ 2022 schedule was deemed among the easiest, but has turned out to be one of the toughest.

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

One of the many reasons analysts gave the 2022 Detroit Lions a good chance to make a significant jump this year was a look at their schedule.

Going by last year’s record, Detroit had the fifth-easiest schedule, with their opponents averaging a winning percentage of .467. However, we knew that was a pretty lazy way to analyze a team’s strength of schedule, because of the year-to-year parity in the league. Still, several other metrics pointed to the Lions getting a bunch of favors from the schedule makers. They get the second-most rest in between games as compared to their opponents, and going by Vegas’ projected win total, the Lions still had the fifth-easiest schedule.

But through six weeks of the season, it turns out Detroit has one of the toughest strengths of schedule in football. That .467 winning percentage of their 17 opponents based on last year’s record is currently .569 (per Tankathon) based on 2022 record—the fourth-toughest schedule of any other team.

In fact, going by another metric—Football Outsiders’ past and future schedule, which is based on their DVOA metric—the Lions have had the fifth-toughest schedule thus far. The good news is that it lets up a little, as the remaining schedule is the 22nd toughest—or the 11th easiest.

How did things change so drastically already? For one, the NFC East—one of the divisions the Lions play this year—looks way better than expected. Three out of four of those teams have a winning record, and the Eagles and Giants are two of just four teams who have yet to lose at least two games. Additionally, teams that looked like they were ready to tank the season—the Seahawks and Patriots—have suddenly found a second life and are on winning streaks.

This isn’t to excuse the Lions’ poor play over the first six weeks of the season. Good teams win regardless of the schedule. But it also puts important context into how things have played out thus far and how they may go down the stretch.

That said, the Lions still have very winnable games remaining on the schedule. They have two games left against the Bears (Football Outsiders’ 31st-ranked team), a game against the Panthers (32nd), and a pair of games vs. a Packers team (21st) that looks way more flawed than they appeared in the offseason.

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