Detroit Lions 2022 schedule analysis: Brutal hand with late-season cold-weather games

Detroit Free Press

Dan Campbell’s unique personality made the Detroit Lions an appealing choice for “Hard Knocks,” but his team’s woeful performance on the field last season made the Lions persona non grata when it came to setting the primetime TV schedule this fall.

The Lions do not have any night games on their 2022 regular season schedule, the second time in three years they’ve been shut out of primetime.

All 17 Lions games this season are scheduled for 1 p.m. starts, except for their annual Thanksgiving game, this year against the Buffalo Bills, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m.

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The NFL has flexible scheduling in Weeks 5-15 and Week 17, and times and dates for Week 18 are to-be-announced, so the Lions still could earn a Sunday night TV appearance. But coming off a 3-13-1 season and with no big-name stars on their roster, the NFL dumped the Lions in their normal TV window.

In 2020, the Lions, coming off a 3-12-1 season, did not have a single primetime game for the first time since 2010.

The Lions have the league’s fifth-easiest schedule this season, with a combined opponent winning percentage of .467 in 2021. They play six games against returning playoff teams and open the season at home for the fifth time in six years.

Here are five more thoughts on the Lions’ 17-game schedule, which includes nine home games and eight road games for the first time in history.

Cold compress

Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said Wednesday about the only thing he cares about when it comes to the schedule release is when the Lions play any potential cold-weather games. 

“Obviously, if we can get those cold games out early, that’d be pretty nice,” he said. “So get to play in Green Bay early, Chicago early, that’d be pretty nice.”

Avoiding cold-weather games was going to be difficult this fall with the Lions playing both the NFC East and AFC East, plus the Packers and Bears. But the league did not do the Lions any favors by giving them five outdoor games after Halloween, four in cold-weather cities.

The Lions play division games against the Bears (Nov. 13) and Packers (Jan. 7 or 8) in the second half of the season, and they visit both New York teams the Giants (Nov. 20) and Jets (Dec. 18) in a four-week span late in the year.

Last season, the Lions went 0-6-1 in outdoor games, losing to the Seattle Seahawks in miserable conditions in early January, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers on a 39-degree November day and losing to the Cleveland Browns in a rainstorm.

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Double the pleasure

The NFL schedule makers gave the Lions two sets of back-to-back road games this season, and both come with a short-week twist.

In November, the Lions visit the Bears and Giants on consecutive Sundays, then get the Bills four days later on Thanksgiving. In December, the Lions play back-to-back road games against the Jets and Carolina Panthers, with the second coming on Christmas eve Saturday of a shortened week.

The Lions have one more set of consecutive road games this fall, against the New England Patriots (Oct. 9) and Dallas Cowboys (Oct. 23), but those games are separated by a Week 6 bye.

The Lions went 0-3 in the second of consecutive road games last season, have won both ends of a road back-to-back just once since 2011, and have lost four straight on Thanksgiving after a road game, with their last such win coming in 2014.

On a positive note, the Bears, Giants, Jets and Panthers went a combined 19-49 last season, so at least there’s that.

As for the Lions’ opponents, the Packers in Week 9 are the only team they host on at least the second of back-to-back road games. Green Bay plays the Lions in the last of three straight road affairs, after visiting Washington and Buffalo the previous two weeks.

Starter kit

After last year’s brutal 0-10-1 start, the Lions have a reasonable chance to start this season off on a good note. They open the season with back-to-back home games against NFC East foes the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders, then host the lowly Seattle Seahawks after a winnable road game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Eagles handed the Lions their worst loss of the season last year, 44-6, and return most of the nucleus from their wildcard team. But the Commanders and Seahawks are breaking in new quarterbacks and the Vikings are one of five teams on the Lions’ schedule with a new coach this year.

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For the Lions, this marks the first time since 1997 they open with back-to-back home games.

Rookie watch

Using the Vegas odds, there’s a good chance the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year will be on the field somewhere in the Lions’ Week 11-13 games.

Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 pick of the draft, is the slight favorite to win the award according to Covers.com, followed by the New York Giants’ Kayvon Thibodeaux (the No. 5 pick) and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Travon Walker (No. 1 pick).

The Lions, who took Hutchinson over Thibodeaux, visit the Giants in Week 11, while the Jaguars, who surprised many by taking Walker over Hutchinson, visit Ford Field on Dec. 4.

Along with Thibodeaux and Walker, the Lions host the only other rookies with 9-to-1 or better odds to win the award: Linebacker Devin Lloyd of the Jacksonville Jaguars, defensive end Jermaine Johnson of the New York Jets and linebacker Quay Walker of the Green Bay Packers.

Joint venture

With nine home games in the regular season, the Lions have two road preseason games this year, against the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers.

There’s a good chance the Lions do joint practices with at least one opponent this summer after missing out on them last season. Campbell said he got a late start scheduling joint workouts last year, but hopes to take part in them in the future.

The Lions open the preseason at home against the Atlanta Falcons.

Lions full 2022 schedule

Preseason

Week 1: vs. Atlanta Falcons, TBD

Week 2: at Indianapolis Colts, TBD

Week 3 (Aug. 28): at Pittsburgh Steelers, (4:30 p.m., CBS)

Regular season

Week 1 (Sept. 11): Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 2 (Sept. 18): Washington Commanders (1 p.m., Fox) 

Week 3 (Sept. 25): at Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 4 (Oct. 2): Seattle Seahawks (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 5 (Oct. 9): at New England Patriots (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 6 – BYE

Week 7 (Oct. 23): at Dallas Cowboys (1 p.m., CBS)

Week 8 (Oct. 30): Miami Dolphins (1 p.m., CBS)

Week 9 (Nov. 6): Green Bay Packers (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 10 (Nov. 13): at Chicago Bears (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 11 (Nov. 20): at New York Giants (1 p.m. Fox)

Week 12 (Nov. 24): Buffalo Bills (12:30 p.m., CBS)

Week 13 (Dec. 4): Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 14 (Dec. 11): Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 15 (Dec. 18): at New York Jets (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 16 (Dec. 24): at Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. Fox)

Week 17 (Jan. 1): Chicago Bears (1 p.m., Fox)

Week 18 (Jan. 7 or 8): at Green Bay Packers (TBD)

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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