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Detroit Lions schedule analysis

4/24/2014

Breakdown: The Lions hired head coach Jim Caldwell on Jan. 14 to provide stability to a talented but reckless team that posted a 7-9 record in 2013. The nation won’t have to wait long to see if Caldwell can deliver results. Detroit opens its regular season at home on "Monday Night Football" versus the New York Giants before facing back-to-back playoff qualifiers from last year: the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers. Winnable games appear on the schedule from Weeks 4-7 (New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings) until the Lions host the always dangerous New Orleans Saints and then travel to London to square off against the Atlanta Falcons. The highlights of the second half of the schedule include a trip to New England in Week 12, and two games versus NFC North rival Chicago Bears, who will be this year’s Thanksgiving Day opponent at Ford Field. Detroit could have a chance to control its destiny within the division with four of its final five games to be played against NFC foes. Caldwell and company wrap up the regular season with consecutive road games in Chicago and Green Bay, cities that usually prove difficult for road teams in December.

Complaint department: The easy target is the trip to London in Week 8. But the NFL pulls out all the stops to make teams feel comfortable whenever they play overseas, and their bye is the following week. In all likelihood, the Lions will have overcome the long flight and time zone change by the time the second half of their season kicks off. The real issue for Detroit is wrapping up the year with back-to-back games in Chicago and Green Bay. The Lions did manage to knock off the Bears and their banged up quarterback, Jay Cutler, last year at Soldier Field, but had lost five straight in Chicago from 2008-12. But that pales in comparison to their struggles on the road versus Green Bay. Detroit has not won a game in the state of Wisconsin since 1991. If the NFC North crown or playoff positioning hangs in the balance for the Lions in Week 16 and Week 17, Caldwell’s group figures to be at an extreme disadvantage.

Uncharted territory: The Week 1 NFL prime-time matchups are generally reserved for the league’s elite -- except for the second of the opening Monday night doubleheader that caters to the West Coast audience -- but a pair of 7-9 teams pop up on the schedule this year. This is the first time the Lions will open their season on Monday night since September 20, 1971, when they lost a 16-13 decision to the Minnesota Vikings at old Tiger Stadium. This marks the fourth straight year "Monday Night Football" has paid a visit to Ford Field, with the Lions owning a 1-2 record the past three years in that prime-time spot.

Strength of schedule: 16th, .492 | Vegas over/under: 8

Lions Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 8, N.Y. Giants, 7:10 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Carolina, 1 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Green Bay, 1 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, at NY Jets, 1 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Buffalo, 1 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, New Orleans, 1 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at Atlanta, 9:30 a.m. (in London)

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Miami, 1 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at New England, 1 p.m.

Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 27, Chicago, 12:30 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, Minnesota, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, at Chicago, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.