Detroit Lions 2023 schedule release: Dave Birkett’s game-by-game predictions

Detroit Free Press

Expectations are sky high for the Detroit Lions in 2023, and for good reason. The Lions have a well-rounded roster with plenty of promising, young talent, and they have a manageable schedule that should both test them and give them opportunity to flourish.

I’m as optimistic about the Lions’ chances of winning a playoff game as I have been in my 14 years covering the team, but I don’t expect them to skate through the NFC North. Here’s my way-too-early schedule prediction, knowing plenty will change between now and September based on injuries, roster adjustments and the growth and regression of players.

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Week 1: at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20 p.m. Sept. 7, NBC

The Lions won’t be overwhelmed by opening under the bright lights of Thursday night football, but I would have liked their chances to upset Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champs better had this been a 1 p.m. start in mid-October. Pick: Chiefs 34, Lions 27 (Record: 0-1)

Week 2: vs. Seattle Seahawks, 1 p.m. Sept. 17, Fox

The Seahawks hung 48 on the Lions early last season in a game that exposed Aaron Glenn’s defense. You can bet he’ll have his group more dialed in this year. Pick: Lions 30, Seahawks 24 (Record: 1-1)

Week 3: vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. Sept. 24, Fox

Maybe this is a showcase game between the two running backs taken in the first round of last month’s NFL draft, Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs. Or maybe it’s a chance for the Lions to pick on Jeff Okudah. Pick: Lions 31, Falcons 17 (Record: 2-1)

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Week 4: at Green Bay Packers, 8:15 p.m. Sept. 28, Amazon Prime

Aaron Rodgers is gone, but I don’t think the Packers will be a walk-over this fall — especially not in a prime time game at Lambeau Field (as poorly as that turned out for them in January). Pick: Packers 24, Lions 23 (Record: 2-2)

Week 5: vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. Oct. 8, Fox

Had Ben Johnson wanted the Panthers job, he’d be coaching against his old team in this game. Instead, with field conditions not an issue, he’ll have a chance to show Panthers fans what they missed out on. Pick: Lions 30, Panthers 21 (Record: 3-2)

Week 6: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. Oct. 15, Fox

The NFC South is pretty awful. The Lions should be able to build some positive momentum by playing three NFC South opponents in their first six games. Pick: Lions 27, Bucs 14 (Record: 4-2)

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Week 7: at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. Oct. 22, Fox

Funny how things work. Jameson Williams liked a tweet this offseason saying the Lions should trade for Lamar Jackson. Now, Williams’ first game back from his gambling suspension will be against Jackson’s team. Pick: Ravens 23, Lions 20 (Record: 4-3)

Week 8: vs. Las Vegas Raiders, 8:15 p.m. Oct. 30, ESPN

Ford Field will be absolutely bonkers for the Lions’ only Monday night game of the year. Pick: Lions 35, Raiders 24 (Record 5-3)

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Week 10: at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. Nov. 12, CBS

Short week, good quarterback on the other side, long trip out west. This could be a tough one. Pick: Chargers 31, Lions 23 (Record: 5-4)

Week 11: vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. Nov. 19, Fox

Justin Fields ran for 279 yards on 23 carries in two games against the Lions last year. He’s dynamic enough to make this one interesting. Pick: Lions 27, Bears 23 (Record 6-4)

Week 12: vs. Green Bay Packers, 12:30 p.m. Nov. 23, Fox

The last time the Lions played the Packers on Thanksgiving, in 2013, Matt Flynn was the starting quarterback and the Lions won in a landslide, 40-10. Pick: Lions 31, Packers 20 (Record: 7-4)

Week 13: at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. Dec. 3, Fox

Dan Campbell’s return to New Orleans feels like a toss-up, but the Lions are 8-4 in post-Thanksgiving games under under Campbell the past two seasons. Pick: Lions 24, Saints 21 (Record: 8-4)

Week 14: at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. Dec. 10, Fox

I’m picking the Lions to sweep the season series with the Bears, but if Fields improves as a passer — and with a new host of weapons, he should — the Bears could be dangerous this fall. Pick: Lions 23, Bears 20 (Record: 9-4)

Week 15: vs. Denver Broncos, TBD

What’s the over-under on Campbell-Sean Payton stories written this week? Pick: Lions 33, Broncos 27 (Record: 10-4)

Week 16: at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. Dec. 24, Fox

The Vikings will be the Lions’ biggest competition in the NFC North this fall, and Christmas Eve will be a must-win game to keep their playoff hopes alive. Pick: Vikings 27, Lions 21 (Record: 10-5)

Week 17: at Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m. Dec. 30, ABC/ESPN

People are discounting the Cowboys as NFC contenders, but the defense should be good enough to carry them if Dak Prescott can cut down on the turnovers. Pick: Cowboys 28, Lions 20 (Record: 10-6)

Week 18: vs. Minnesota Vikings, TBD

What if the Lions — the Lions !?! — decide to rest starters this game with an NFC North title already sewed up? Pick: Lions 30, Vikings 21 (Final record: 11-6)

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett

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