Allen Park — The NFL released its 2018 schedule Thursday night. Here are five thoughts about the hand the Detroit Lions were dealt (full schedule below).
Some of the initial reaction to the opening segment is that it’s brutal, but I’m seeing a glass half-full.
Finding a loophole around the Ed Sheeran concert scheduled for Saturday, which was supposed to have the Lions starting the season on the road, is a blessing. Then you have to realize the game is against the Jets, one of the most-beatable opponents on the entire schedule. There’s plenty of value in gaining early momentum and a win in prime time can provide that.
The travel this season was always going to be a bear. After a west-coast trip to Oakland in the preseason, the Lions will head back to the Bay Area in Week 2 to face San Francisco. That’s a good, young team with a quarterback who hasn’t lost in seven starts. But it will probably be better to catch the 49ers early in the year, before the chemistry fully develops between Jimmy Garoppolo and his offensive weapons.
As for the home tilt against New England, no matter where you put it on the schedule it was going to be tough. A hyped home crowd for prime time certainly doesn’t hurt Detroit’s chances.
Former coach Jim Caldwell always preached “be an indoor team with an outdoor mentality.” The Lions will need that mental fortitude this December when they play not one, but a pair of games at two of the league’s more challenging cold-weather venues.
First, the Lions travel to Buffalo, arguably the NFL’s leader in annual snowfall. Then it’s a season-closing game against the Packers, where the Lions have had a historical share of issues.
Fortunately, the lengthy losing streak in Wisconsin no longer hangs over the franchise’s head, after they won two out of the past three at Lambeau Field. But the last time they earned a victory over the Packers in below-freezing temperatures was 1991.
Frequent flyer miles
The Lions will be crisscrossing the country this season, but at least the travel is reasonably spaced out, with only two back-to-back trips. The first back-to-back doesn’t come until Weeks 9 and 10 and that’s with relatively close trips to Minnesota and Chicago.
There will be a little more strain down the stretch when the Lions follow a road game in Arizona with a trip to Buffalo, but again, at least the second leg is only an hour away by plane.
The Lions had been planning for the possibility of playing Arizona and San Francisco back-to-back weeks, even considering staying out west for the practice week in between. They dodged a bullet there.
The key to the season could be a second-half home stretch. Coming off a winnable game in Chicago, the Lions will host the Panthers, Bears (on Thanksgiving) and Rams.
The Lions laid an egg against the Panthers at Ford Field last season and will be looking for vengeance. Up next, if you can’t beat the Bears at home, on Thanksgiving no less, you’re probably not a playoff-caliber team. And having 11 days to recuperate and prepare for the high-octane Rams is a positive.
Most players prefer a bye week at the midpoint of the season or later. The Lions will get an early break, after just five games, making the stretch run that much more grueling. The good news is the first game back is against the Dolphins, a team that doesn’t look like it will be very competitive in 2018.
LIONS 2018 SCHEDULE
Mon. Sept. 10, vs. New York Jets, 7:10 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun. Sept. 16, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Sept. 23, vs. New England, 8:20 (NBC)
Sun. Sept. 30, at Dallas, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Oct. 7, vs. Green Bay, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Oct 21, at Miami , 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Oct. 28, vs. Seattle, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Nov. 4, at Minnesota, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Nov. 11, at Chicago, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Nov. 18, vs. Carolina, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Thurs. Nov. 22, vs. Chicago, 12:30 p.m. (CBS)
Sun. Dec. 2, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Dec. 9, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Dec. 16, at Buffalo, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Dec. 23, vs. Minnesota, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)
Sun. Dec. 30, at Green Bay, 1:00 p.m. (Fox)