This past Sunday, the Detroit Lions had a golden opportunity to move to 4-1 on the season as they hosted the Carolina Panthers at what was a ruckus Ford Field.
There was one problem. Cam Newton and the Panthers apparently did not get the memo that they were supposed to play dead and let the Lions walk away with the victory. Instead, Carolina dominated for three quarters, built a 17 point lead, and then coasted to a 27-24 win.
Now, instead of being tied with the Green Bay Packers at top of the NFC North at 4-1, the Lions are 3-2 and tied with the Minnesota Vikings for second place in the division.
That being said, if you would have told most Lions fans that their team would be 3-2 after what was supposed to be a “grueling” first five games on their schedule, they likely would have been thrilled. But, in retrospect, those first five games do not look as daunting, as the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, both teams the Lions beat, are a combined 2-8 on the season.
So, now on to the “easy” part of the schedule, right? Well, don’t get too excited because the Lions will certainly be challenged in their next three games as they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints, host the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then fly to Green Bay to battle the Packers.
Here is how I think the Lions will fare in their next three games.
1. Week 6 – @New Orleans Saints
This coming Sunday, Detroit will take on New Orleans in what could prove to be one of the biggest swing games for both teams in 2017.
The Lions have squared off against the Saints in each of the past three regular seasons and have emerged victorious on all three occasions. Two of those games were played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome where Drew Brees and the Saints are tough to beat. For whatever reason, this Lions team does not seem to be phased by playing on the Saints turf and the results have proven that.
That being said, New Orleans is coming off of two-straight wins and a bye week so you can be sure their confidence is very high. The Lions, on the other hand, are coming off a game against the Panthers where they were exposed for three quarters before the Carolina defense took their foot off the gas. Not only did the Lions lose the game to drop to 3-2, but Matthew Stafford, their most important player, took a beating in the process and his availability against the Saints is still up in the air.
Even if Stafford does play, he will not be 100% and that will really hurt a Lions offense that still has not figured out how to run the football. Brees may have lost a step but he still has more than enough left in the tank to pick apart the Lions secondary, especially if the defensive line cannot get pressure on him.
PROJECTION: New Orleans 30 Detroit 20
2. Week 8 – vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday Night Football)
Following what will be a much-needed a bye in Week 7, the Lions will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. With a trip to Lambeau to take on the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football on the horizon, this will be a must-win game for the Lions if they truly want to compete for a playoff spot.
The Steelers, who are currently 3-2, do not look to be the team that many thought they were heading into the season, especially after having their doors blown off last Sunday AT HOME against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But they certainly have the talent on both sides of the ball to compete against anyone.
Before their matchup on SNF against the Lions, the Steelers will first have to square off against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on the road followed by a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. My best guess would be that they lose to the Chiefs and beat the Bengals which means Pittsburgh will be 4-3 heading into this game.
The Lions will be well-rested following their bye week and you can bet that Ford Field will be rockin’ and rollin’ for this one. It will be a close game but the Lions will score a late touchdown to put the game out of reach. Detroit moves to 4-3 on the season.
PROJECTION: Detroit 27 Pittsburgh 17
3. Week 9 – @Green Bay Packers (Monday Night Football)
When the 2017 Detroit Lions schedule was first revealed, there was one game that I immediately penciled in as a loss. That game will take place on Nov. 7 when the Lions hit the road to take on the Green Bay Packers. Not only is the game being played at Lambeau Field, where the Lions have a hell of a time winning, and not only is it a Monday Night Football game, but it also happens to be a game being played after a Packers bye week.
Prior to taking on the Lions, the Packers will play the Vikings on the road and will host the Saints before their bye. Even if Green Bay splits in those two games, they will still be 5-2 and would have an opportunity to put a couple of games between themselves and the Lions, who I believe will be 4-3 heading into the game.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been on fire so far this season as he leads the league with 13 touchdown passes and only three interceptions as the Packers have gone 4-1. You can be sure he will be at his best when the Lions come to town on MNF.
To be honest, I would be completely shocked if the Lions can stroll into Lambeau Field and come away with a victory. But, crazier things have happened!
PROJECTION: Green Bay 34 Detroit 20