Free Press sports writers make their predictions for the Detroit Lions‘ 2021 season opener at Ford Field against the San Francisco 49ers (1 p.m., Fox):
This will be a sobering game for Lions fans. The Lions will struggle on offense, struggle on defense and won’t do much in special teams other than punting, of course. The Lions are great at punting. This will be a game where you think: Oh, man, how are they going to get to four wins? The pick: 49ers 31, Lions 21.
The juice of the first crowd at Ford Field and the competitive spirit of Dan Campbell keep it close for a bit. Say, into the second quarter. But San Francisco has too much, especially defensively. The pick: 49ers 27, Lions 10.
SEASON PREDICTIONS: Here’s how many games the Lions will win, and who’ll win Super Bowl 56
The NFL did not do the Lions any favors by sending a good 49ers team to town for Campbell’s first game as head coach, and things got even tougher with Decker’s injury this week. The Lions have an incredibly thin margin for error given the makeup of their young roster, and San Francisco is a talented, veteran team with a well-coached offense and dangerous pass rush. Maybe having a stadium full of fans for the first time in two years will help even the playing field, but even then the Lions don’t have enough offense to win a high-scoring game. They’ll surprise an opponent or two that underestimates them, but I don’t see that happening in Week 1. The pick: 49ers 30, Lions 17.
The Lions are simply outclassed in their season-opener by a team many consider a playoff contender. We’ll get a chance to see how the Lions’ new 3-4 defense looks, but it probably won’t be pretty out of the gate as they try to contain George Kittle and slow down speed merchant Raheem Mostert. With Taylor Decker likely out, the offensive line will struggle to keep Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Dee Ford off Jared Goff and out of their backfield. The pick: 49ers 30, Lions 20.
Stay informed on what’s happening across Michigan: Subscribe to our news alert emails here.