Breakdown: Figures. The NFL gave the Detroit Lions their first prime-time game in five years, a Week 5 game at Ford Field against the Chicago Bears. But piled in front is a difficult first opening quarter of the season. Put it this way: The Lions would be for real if they enter their Monday night game against the Bears with a winning record.
Three of their first four games would come on the road, including their season-opener at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Lions would host the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, but that contest would be followed by consecutive games at the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys.
Based on 2010 performances, all four games would be winnable for the Lions. But only the best NFL teams win more games on the road than they lose. They would need to hit the ground running to maximize anticipation for that Monday night game.
Complaint department: Other than the opening stanza, I don't have many complaints here. I actually like the end of the Lions' schedule, when they would presumably be fighting for a playoff spot. Four of their final seven games would be at Ford Field. The road games over that stretch would be tough -- at the New Orleans Saints and at the Green Bay Packers -- but I think they can win all four of those home games.
Prime-time, babyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!: For the first time since 2005, the Lions would play a prime-time game. The Lions' game against Bears will be played on a Monday night at Ford Field. Given the Lions' on-field performance during their absence, I think we can fairly interpret this game as a sign of their anticipated progress. It's also a nod toward the star power on both sides of the ball, from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to receiver Calvin Johnson to quarterback Matthew Stafford.
For the record, the Lions last played at night on Dec. 11, 2005, a 16-13 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers. Their last Monday night game was in 2001, and their last victory on Monday night was in 1998.
Remember, Thanksgiving Day games don't count as "prime-time" because they aren't played at night, considered the most valuable television time period.
Lions Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 10, Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, San Francisco, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Denver, 4:05 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, Green Bay, 12:30 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, San Diego, 4:05 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM