Too early for Detroit Lions predictions? Never. Here’s why double-digit wins are in the bank

Detroit Free Press

July 4 is around the corner. Training camp begins a few weeks later. Preseason games a couple weeks after that.

In other words, Summer is essentially over, which means the Detroit Lions season is nearly here. In that spirit, and acknowledging that so many can’t wait for the season to get here anyway, it’s high time for some predictions, because it’s never too early.

Let’s call ’em mock predictions — for now; obviously, I reserve the right to amend these predictions depending on possible camp injuries and the like. If Jared Goff tweaks something, for example, or, say, Amon-Ra St. Brown does, then the outlook changes.

For now, though, let’s assume relative health. But first, a few words about the anticipation building around this franchise, and why.

The Lions have had talent before. Talent on the edges, in the backfield, behind center.

They’ve had pass rushers and run defenders and stellar middle linebacking and occasionally, a near lockdown corner. They’ve even had favorable schedules, as they mostly do this year.

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What they haven’t had in decades is talent in most of the position groups at the same time, nor the combination of a good quarterback with skilled outside spots and a menacing offensive line. They also haven’t had a division that didn’t include a Hall of Famer at quarterback in Green Bay — so long, Aaron Rodgers.

So yeah, the possibilities are there this fall for some serious aligning … of the stars, the heavens, heck, even the football gods. They are favored to win the NFC North for the first time for a reason, actually, for many reasons, not least among them the 8-2 finish from a season ago.

Add the improvements in the secondary, the expected growth from a bevy of gifted young players, a few promising rookies, and a coaching staff that may just be onto something, and we’ve got the most anticipated Lions’ season since the early 90s.

That’s a start.

Speaking of starts, the Lions have a chance to begin a torrid one this fall, even if they lose to the defending champs on opening night.

Here then, is a quick look at the schedule — with predictions:

Game 1 — at Kansas City, Thursday night, primetime

Let’s give the Chiefs this one. They have Patrick Mahomes, home-field advantage, experience in big games, Andy Reid, a solid defense, and Patrick Mahomes — he’s worth listing twice.

This will not only be a great test against the league’s elite, but an even better test of their mental fortitude. If the Lions want to get where they think they can, they’ll need to handle the lights, the stage, and the buzz that accompanies these kinds of games.

I’ll bet they will, and they’ll hold up into the fourth quarter, and announce themselves in a tight loss.

Game 2 — Seattle, the home opener

The Seahawks could’ve helped the Lions make the playoffs last season but didn’t. For that, the Lions owe them. They also owe them for the 48-piece they hung on them last October. Seattle should be similar. The Lions will be better and hold them under 48.

Win.

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Game 3 — Atlanta

The Lions move past .500. The NFC South is a mess. The Falcons stink. What else do we need to say?

Game 4 — at Green Bay, Thursday night

A short week. At Lambeau. Against a quarterback — Jordan Love — who has an arm and ability and oh-my-goodness-are-Packers-hiding another HOFer?

Even if he is, he won’t be playing like in his fourth week as a starter.

Win.

Game 5 — Carolina

Plug the running gaps. Hold onto the snap in the red zone. Make a few plays on offense. Keep the train moving.

Win.

Game 6 — at Tampa

Tom Brady is retired, for now. The Buccaneers have a decent defense and the remnants of a solid offensive line but even at home shouldn’t be able to score enough.

Win, and let the hype go crazy.

Game 7 — at Baltimore

Depending on how the Ravens start the season, this could be a late-October buzz fest as the Lions will be 5-1. Lamar Jackson does his thing. Goff and Jameson Williams, making his debut, do theirs. The Lions get their toughest victory of the season.

Game 8 — Las Vegas

And … this is where the letdown comes. Or the Brady magic — he’s a minority owner. And with Jimmy Garoppolo as the new QB, the Raiders get the upset.

Game 9 — at L.A. Chargers

The Lions lose their second in a row. A few long-timers think it’s an omen. It is not. Just a loss to a good team on the West Coast with a very good quarterback.

Game 10 — Chicago

The Lions own the Bears.

Game 11 — Green Bay, Thanksgiving

The Lions are tired of losing on their holiday. They don’t.

Game 12 — at New Orleans

When I first saw the schedule, I figured this for a loss. The Saints acquired Derek Carr, already had a nice defense, and play in the Superdome. That won’t be enough. The Lions keep knocking off the NFC South.

Game 13 — at Chicago

Justin Fields nearly beat the Lions in Chicago last year. He does this time. The Lions no longer own the Bears.

Game 14 — Denver

No.

Game 15 — at Minnesota

The late-game misery continues. But the Lions don’t sweat it and …

Game 16 — at Dallas

… get some revenge in Dallas.

Game 17 — Minnesota

The Lions aren’t going to lose to the Vikings twice in three games. They clinch the division, and a home playoff game, in the final week of the season, and finish at 12-5.

Just don’t hold me to it, yet.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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