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The Lions closed the preseason with an ugly 35-17 loss to the Browns. Does it matter? Justin Rogers and John Niyo of The Detroit News discuss. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News

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Allen Park — I say it every year, but predicting football, especially beyond the current week, is a fool's errand. If nothing else, it's impossible to know injury situations weeks and months in advance.

But game-by-game projections are a necessary evil in my industry, so we'll make do with the partial information we have and offer our best guess on how the Detroit Lions' 2018 season will play out. 

Sept. 10 vs. New York Jets (7:10 p.m.)

The Lions couldn’t have handpicked a better opening matchup: Primetime, at home. against a rookie quarterback and a team coach Matt Patricia knows extremely well. This could conceivably be a blowout. Pick: Lions 29, Jets 13

More: Lions prepare to face unknown in Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold

Sept. 16 at San Francisco (4:05 p.m.)

It’s likely Jimmy Garoppolo’s perfect record falls Week 1 against the Vikings, and with running back Jerrick McKinnon done for the year, the Lions have an opportunity to pile on to the 49ers’ problems. Pick: Lions 24, 49ers 20

Sept. 23 vs. New England (8:20 p.m.)

I don’t know who will be catching passes for the Patriots, but I trust Bill Belichick will have no problem scheming something up to attack the weaknesses of his former protégé. Pick: Patriots 27, Lions 17

Sept. 30 at Dallas (1 p.m.)

It’s easy to imagine the Lions will have trouble slowing down Zeke Elliott. Also, wide receiver Michael Gallup is a sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year.  Pick: Cowboys 23, Lions 21

Oct. 7 vs. Green Bay (1 p.m.)

The Lions better figure out a pass-rush in a hurry, because if they can’t generate pressure against Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers will pick the secondary apart. Pick: Packers 26, Lions 23

Oct. 21 at Miami (1 p.m.)

The Dolphins might be the worst team in football, and like with the Jets earlier in the year, Patricia’s expertise on the opponent won’t hurt. Pick: Lions 30, Dolphins 20

More: Quandre Diggs ‘beat the odds,’ gets three-year extension with Lions

Oct. 28 vs. Seattle (1 p.m.)

The Seahawks liquidated several key pieces from their recent run and are in the middle of a soft rebuild. Russell Wilson always will give them a chance, but that defense doesn’t intimidate like it has in the past. Pick: Lions 23, Seahawks 20

Nov. 4 at Minnesota (1 p.m.)

The Lions have had good fortune in the Vikings’ new home, but that streak will come to an end this year. Pick: Vikings 27, Lions 17

Nov. 11 at Chicago (1 p.m.)

The Lions have scored victories in four of the last five at Soldier Field, but the Bears won’t be a pushover this season after a strong coaching hire, offseason moves that filled glaring roster needs and the bold addition of Khalil Mack, arguably the best pass-rusher in the business. Pick: Bears 17, Lions 13

Nov. 18 vs. Carolina (1 p.m.)

A return home is just what the doctor ordered. The Panthers bullied their way to a victory at Ford Field last year, but the Lions improved toughness and conditioning will be the difference this year. Pick: Lions 20, Panthers 17

Nov. 22 vs. Chicago (12:30 p.m.)

Detroit gets vengeance for the loss earlier in the season when Darius Slay picks off Mitch Trubisky twice, including late in the fourth quarter. Pick: Lions 24, Bears 17

Dec. 2 vs. Los Angeles Rams (1 p.m.)

The Lions will have a tough time protecting Matthew Stafford in Ndamukong Suh’s homecoming and the Rams’ potent offense will prove overwhelming. Pick: Rams 34, Lions 23

More: ‘Whole mode changes’ for Lions with shift to regular season

Dec. 9 at Arizona (4:25 p.m.)

This is a game the Lions should win, but the team always struggles in Arizona, for whatever reason. They’ve lost eight straight there, with their last victory coming in 1993. Pick: Cardinals 20, Lions 17

Dec. 16 at Buffalo (1 p.m.)

For all we know, the field might be covered in a foot of snow, but forgive me for not believing in rookie quarterback Josh Allen’s ability to get the job done. Pick: Lions 23, Bills 17

Dec. 23 vs. Minnesota (1 p.m.)

With playoff hopes on life support, the Vikings put the nail in the season’s coffin, holding on despite a late comeback effort. Pick: Vikings 26, Lions 23

Dec. 30 at Green Bay (1 p.m.)

The motivation of playing spoiler in the NFC North race isn’t enough for the Lions to get the job done in the season finale at Lambeau. Pick: Packers 24, Lions 20

Conclusion: There you go, I have the Lions finishing 7-9. You could make a convincing argument half the games are coin flips, so I don’t think I’d be surprised if the Lions found their way into the postseason, especially if the offensive line stays relatively healthy and Matt Patricia can shape the defense into a capable unit earlier than expected. But there are too many question marks for my taste to project something that bold.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/Justin_Rogers

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