The Detroit Lions went 3-13-1 last season and lost three games on field goals as time expired. They are a better team this year, and their record should reflect it with a more favorable schedule. If they stay healthy, they could challenge for their first wild card berth since 2016.
Here is my annual game-by-game prediction for how the Lions season will shake out:
Sept. 11: Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles handed the Lions their most lopsided loss of last season. Dan Campbell’s team will be better prepared for the rematch (1 p.m on Fox), but stopping Philadelphia’s run game still will be a problem. Pick: Eagles 27, Lions 24.
Sept. 18: Lions vs. Washington Commanders
I kind of feel bad for Martin Mayhew. He gets his second crack at being an NFL general manager and it comes with the most dysfunctional franchise in the league. Pick: Lions 23, Commanders 20.
Sept. 25: Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Take the over on Justin Jefferson receiving yards for this game (1 p.m. on Fox) — whatever it is. Pick: Vikings 24, Lions 21.
Oct. 2: Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks
Of course the Seahawks had no interest in trading for Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason. They prefer C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young in the draft next spring. Pick: Lions 27, Seahawks 17.
Oct. 9: Lions at New England Patriots
What the hell is Bill Belichick thinking having Matt Patricia call offensive plays? Pick: Lions 28, Patriots 20.
Oct. 23: Lions at Dallas Cowboys
If the Lions can keep this a game (1 p.m. on CBS) late into the fourth quarter, Mike McCarthy might gift them a win with his clock management skills. Pick: Cowboys 24, Lions 17.
Oct. 30: Lions vs. Miami Dolphins
Jared Goff isn’t the only quarterback in a make-or-break season. The same could be said for Tua Tagovailoa. Pick: Dolphins 30, Lions 24.
Nov. 6: Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
Even with a suspect receiving corps, the Packers are still the best team in the NFC North by a wide margin. Pick: Packers 27, Lions 23.
Nov. 13: Lions at Chicago Bears
The Bears, on the other hand, seem poised to end the Lions’ streak of four straight last-place finishes in the division. Pick: Lions 24, Bears 20.
Nov. 20: Lions at New York Giants
I picked the Lions to lose this game (1 p.m. on Fox) when the schedule dropped in May and immediately regretted it. The Giants have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Pick: Lions 31, Giants 20.
Nov. 24: Lions vs. Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen is the early favorite for NFL MVP, and a nationally televised Thanksgiving game (12:30 p.m. CBS) against the Lions’ subpar defense should only enhance his chances of winning the award. Pick: Bills 34, Lions 24.
Dec. 4: Lions vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Maybe not quite to the extent of recent Year 2 quarterback stars Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, but I’m buying Trevor Lawrence as a breakout candidate this fall. Pick: Lions 27, Jaguars 23.
Dec. 11: Lions vs. Vikings
I picked the Vikings to make the playoffs because of the dearth of good teams in the NFC, but I don’t think they’re significantly better than the Lions. Pick: Lions 28, Vikings 17.
Dec. 18: Lions at New York Jets
The schedule-makers did not do the Lions any favors by putting both their trips to New York in cold-weather months. Pick: Jets 21, Lions 17.
Dec. 24: Lions at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have an early December bye, so if they get off to a rough start they could be playing out the string with an interim coach by this point in the season. Pick: Panthers 26, Lions 20.
Jan. 1, 2023: Lions vs. Bears
I’m not sure how good Justin Fields will be in the NFL, but the Bears have done him a disservice with the talent they’ve put around him. Pick: Lions 34, Bears 20.
Week 18: Lions at Packers (TBD)
If the season shakes out this way, the Lions will be playing for a winning record in Week 18. Pick: Packers 27, Lions 24.
Lions record: 8-9
Jared Goff passing numbers: 4,119 yards, 22 TD, 10 INTs..
Lions’ leading rusher: D’Andre Swift.
Lions’ leading receiver: Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Lions’ sack leader: Charles Harris.
Where Lions’ offense will rank: 15th.
Where Lions’ defense will rank: 26th.
NFC division winners: Packers, Bucs, 49ers, Eagles.
NFC wildcards: Rams, Vikings, Saints.
NFC title game: Packers over 49ers.
AFC division winners: Bills, Ravens, Chargers, Colts.
AFC wildcards: Chiefs, Bengals, Raiders.
AFC title game: Chargers over Chiefs.
Super Bowl: Packers over Chargers.