I’m writing this post in a make-believe world where people actually care about the Lions. I have never been less excited for an NFL Draft in my life. Thankfully, we all have the power to create “make-believe worlds” where that doesn't have to be true. The 2008 schedules were released this week and, thankfully, ESPN was there to bore everyone to death by hyping match-ups that won’t take place for seven months. Last season—well before the season started—I took a look at the 2007 schedule and concluded that the Lions couldn’t possibly win 10 games, make the playoffs, or even finish above .500. The schedule was simply too difficult. Jon Kitna looked at the same schedule and saw 10 wins. The moral of that story is: listen to me and don’t listen to Jon Kitna.
In the NFL, “the schedule” is everything for mediocre teams. A mediocre team with a difficult schedule has no chance of making the playoffs. However, a mediocre team with an easy schedule can make a run. That’s good news for Lions fans because the Lions ’08 schedule is quite possibly the easiest NFL schedule I have ever seen. I can’t remember the last time the Lions had what could be described as an easy schedule. It definitely hasn’t happened since the NFL instituted its new scheduling policy. I was blown away as I looked down the list. It featured beatable team after beatable team. Even the “good” teams aren’t that good. Granted, the Lions are terrible and will be underdogs in most games no matter how good the opponent is but this schedule is as accommodating as it gets.
The Lions had the good fortune of being paired up with the NFC South and the AFC South plus San Francisco and Washington. Obviously, the Lions will lose to Indianapolis but that game is on the road. The Lions also play Jacksonville but that game is at home and Jacksonville at home is much more winnable than Indy on the road. The Lions also get Tennessee, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Washington at home. That brings me to my next point. The Lions schedule isn’t just easy because there aren’t a ton of great teams on it. It’s easy because the Lions play all of their toughest opponents at home and their weakest opponents on the road. The home/away aspect of the schedule couldn’t be more perfect if the Lions designed it themselves.
@ San Francisco
@ Green Bay
The Lions play two road games against teams that were above .500 last year. One of those teams—Green Bay—will be playing with an unproven quarterback. The other is Indy which will be a loss no matter where the game is played so it’s a bonus that the Lions don’t have to waste that loss at home.
Name a team on this list that the Lions will most definitely lose to. Every team on the list has major flaws. Washington, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Tennessee don’t score points. They are decent teams—all made the playoffs in ’07—but they are all very beatable. New Orleans has no defense—unless Dan Morgan and Jonathan Vilma are set to do their best Sam Mills and Rickey Jackson impersonations. Minnesota will run for 200+ yards per game but—without a passing attack—they will continue to be beatable. Green Bay, again, will be unproven at the most important position on the field. There is no way another 14-2 season is in the cards for the Pack.
My point here isn’t that the Lions will win 10 games or even break .500. My point is that there is only one game on the schedule that the Lions most certainly won’t win. The rest are up for grabs. Every road game sans Indy is winnable. Every home game is winnable. Even though the Lions really only added Tampa’s scraps to the defense this year, I think those scraps are better than what the Lions originally had. I think the defense will be better. Hopefully, Millen and Marinelli have enough foresight to address either the defense (any position) or the offensive line. With Martz out of the picture, the Lions may actually be able to play ball control offensively and take advantage of Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson’s size and strength to move the chains and score in the red zone. Neither unit will be flashy—or great. But, I think both units can be effective. That sort of reminds me of Tampa Bay, Washington, and Tennessee all of which made the playoffs last year. The result? I think the Lions are going to shock the world in ’08 with an 8-8 season.