Why do the NFL schedulers hate Detroit and the Detroit Lions?
Seriously, is it something we said? Do we have something stuck in our teeth? Does our odor offend?
How else can you explain the difficult 2021 schedule the Lions were handed Wednesday by the NFL’s scheduling mavens, who I can only assume are devout followers of the Marquis de Sade.
It wasn’t bad enough the Lions headed into Wednesday knowing they were tied for the sixth-hardest schedule based on their opponents’ win percentage. Nope. The NFL had to pour some salt in the wound — cackling, probably, while they did it —when they gave the Lions three sets of back-to-back road games: Oct. 3 and 10 at Chicago, then Minnesota; Nov. 14 and 21 at Pittsburgh, then Cleveland; and Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 at Atlanta, then Seattle.
But that wasn’t enough.
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The NFL also had to make sure the Lions’ hopes for a good start would be dashed quickly by giving them a Monday night game at Green Bay in Week 2. The Packers’ 7-1 record on Monday night since 2014 is one of the best in the NFL. The Lions haven’t won a Monday night game since 2017, although at least it came at Lambeau Field when Matthew Stafford passed for two touchdowns and — sorry, too soon?
Last season, Aaron Rodgers passed for 530 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions against the Lions. After seeing this schedule, Rodgers might want to put off his exodus from Green Bay until he feasts on the Lions in primetime.
The flogging continues in Week 3, when Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens come to Ford Field. That’s followed by a cringe-inducing trip to Chicago in Week 4, where we’ll get to see exactly how motivated Justin Fields will be to make Brad Holmes regret passing on him in the NFL draft. If Mitchell Trubisky could own the Lions with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions, what do you think Fields is going to do to them?
Oh, and that stretch in Weeks 2-4 marks a gauntlet of three straight playoff teams, with two on the road. What’s going on at NFL headquarters? Did Sheila Ford Hamp forget to complement Roger Goodell’s chair?
But wait, it gets worse.
The Lions come off their Week 9 bye with an extremely difficult finish in their final nine games. And it starts with consecutive road games against the Steelers and Browns, two playoff teams that combined to win 23 games last season. The Lions have also won 23 games — since 2017. These two games should show up in your television listings with the parental guideline of TV-MA, as in TV-MA(ssacre).
In case the Lions wanted to build any kind of late-season momentum, the NFL took care of that by scheduling three of their last five games on the road, in Denver, Atlanta and Seattle. And their final two games come against two playoff teams: the Seahawks and the Packers.
As for the game that’s circled on every Lions fan’s calendar — Oct. 24 at Los Angeles against Stafford and the Rams — it’s coming a bit late. This will be viewed as a referendum on the careers of Stafford and Jared Goff, as well as which team won the big trade.
But Stafford is 33 and coming off several serious injuries. There’s no guarantee Stafford play in this game, halfway into the season, or be healthy enough for an honest judgment. That has nothing to do with his toughness. But it does have everything to do with Father Time’s undefeated record. This game should have been scheduled much earlier, because you can already hear TVs clicking off at the prospect of a Tim Boyle vs. John Wolford showdown.
But let’s be realistic. Everyone knows this is the start of a Lions rebuild. The season was going to be ugly, no matter what. But the NFL made darn sure the Lions hit every branch of that ugly tree on their way down the 2021 schedule.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned in Detroit it’s that some NFL teams get all the breaks, and those teams are never the Lions.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.