Detroit — Eager and optimistic Lions fans were lined up awaiting entrance to Ford Field by 10 a.m. ahead of the franchise’s home opener Sunday afternoon. Expectations for the season are high. Some believe the team’s first-ever Super Bowl championship is within reach, while others would just like to see the Lions’ first playoff victory at Ford Field.
“I’ve never seen so much happiness around the Lions and so much hype around them,” said Marshall Haineault, 21, who was waiting to be among the first to enter Ford Field for the 2023-24 season with his grandparents, longtime season ticket holders. “I absolutely could see us making a playoff run this year but I don’t want to jinx anything. We’re keeping hopes very high though.”
The Lions finished 9-8 last season but were edged out of playoff contention by the Seattle Seahawks, who had an identical record but beat Detroit in a head-to-head contest at home last fall. Fans were excited for Sunday’s rematch, which is set to begin at 1 p.m.
“The Seahawks beat us at home last year so I think (the Lions) have got a chip on their shoulder, so I think they’re gonna really want to beat them today, and I think they have a great chance to,” said Brian Blevins, 49, of Troy. “I think we’re gonna finally make it to the playoffs.”
The Lions stunned the National Football League by defeating reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, in their season opener on Sept. 7. Coming off the high of a victory, fans are even more optimistic for this season.
“It was like a mini Super Bowl win,” Corey Holliday, 45, said of the Lions’ first upset. Holliday holds season tickets for the Lions, which sold out for the first time in Ford Field’s history this season.
The Lions should “shoot big” if they’re going to shoot at all said Kristina Slifco, 25, who is hoping for a Super Bowl victory this season. The victory against the Chiefs almost didn’t feel real, she added.
“I just like to have that optimism every year,” said Slifco, of Macomb. “When you have a team that backs you and a fanbase that backs you it makes a huge difference. So, having sold out season tickets, a crowd that goes wild every single game, it makes the morale in each game go up.”
Many fans praised the “Campbell-Holmes regime,” referring to Head Coach Dan Campbell and General Manager Brad Holmes.
“Now that it’s in the third year of the Campbell-Holmes regime, they know the kind of players they are looking for,” said Dan Myers, 61, a Lions season ticket holder since 1992. “They’ve been able to get those types of players and coach them up.”
Mark Kossajda, 25, agreed that the team has a lot of potential.
“It’s been growing since Dan Campbell became head coach, and hopefully we can find a way where we can start winning playoff games on a consistent basis,” said Kossajda, of Farmington Hills.
His father, David Kossajda, 57, attended the Lions’ last playoff victory against the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 at the Silverdome in Pontiac.
“I’m looking forward to a big season,” Kossajda said. “The last season they were on the rise and that seems to have carried right over into the season.”
Paul Kunde, 53, makes the three-hour drive from Grand Haven for every home game, he said. The Lions are going to go big this year, he said confidently while tailgating with his family outside Ford Field.
“The Super Bowl!” Kunde said when asked about his expectations for the Lions this season. “We gotta think big, we’re gonna go big this year.”
The win over Kansas City was about as big as it could get for the franchise, he added.
“It sets the tone for the year. It gets the hype train going,” Kunde said.