Analyzing the Lions 2016 Schedule
Doing schedule analysis, especially before the draft is, well, stupid. A lot can and will change before and during the season. There’s the standard ebb and flow of teams improving or deteriorating and that handful of teams that completely surprise everyone. Players will get hurt, new acquisitions will exceed expectations… you get the point. It’s stupid.
So they called me in to get it done!
Just to make it clear, these thoughts are just a best guess of how things might go down with the Lions 2016 schedule. If anyone gets upset or tries to come back and quote me on any of this, I will smack your mother. In the face. Also, I won’t be getting specific with a win/loss total at this point. Check back with me in August.
Okay, let’s get to it.
Weeks 1-4 Early Gauntlet
Week 1 @Colts:
Once Upon a Time in the Midwest. Stafford and Luck face off for only the 2nd time in their careers. Last time was a doozy.
We’ll get to see the Lions roll out some new players and test their versatility on offense against what was a well below average defense last year.
The Colts offense is an enigma at this point and hopefully they don’t have it all put together. They weren’t good last year, either rushing or passing, but Luck was injured and if he’s back to full strength it could put our secondary to the test, especially our depth guys.
On paper, this seems like a pretty even matchup to start the year. If it’s a loss, it’s not the end of the world.
Week 2 vs. Titans:
Those bastards made out like a politician receiving speaking fees. They fleeced the Rams something good. With a plethora of picks in this draft, they are likely to have a ton of new talent hit the field early in the season.
However, as bad as they have been the last couple years, relying that heavily on rookie performers isn’t likely to pay major dividends in the short term. Be glad we get them this year and get them early.
Marita is lightning in a bottle, so he’ll test the speed of our DL. I hope Levy is back to full health. Still, the home opener should go to the Lions.
Week 3 @ Packers:
If 1991 through 2014 was Rocky, and 2015 was Rocky II, hopefully 2016 is Rocky III (don’t read too much into that, it won’t hold up, but Rocky wins in the end).
It’s relatively rare that Detroit gets to play in Lambeau in September. Green Bay has a habit, major injury years aside, of starting the year slow and finishing strong. I suspect that’s largely due to relying heavily on rookies and young players.
However, Rodgers should be healthy and Jordy will be back. This will not be an easy one to walk away with, but it’s a better shot at it than Detroit usually gets.
Week 4 @ Bears:
Can they keep the streak going? This would make 7 consecutive wins against the Bears. We can only hope.
If the Bears are an improved team, which most believe they will be, this will finish off potentially the toughest four game stretch of the season for the Lions. If they can manage to go 2-2 though this stretch, it will set them up in good shape for the rest of the season.
Can I just say how happy I am that Matt Forte retired? One of the few Bears players I’ve ever respected.
Weeks 5-8 Cruise Control?
Week 5 vs. Eagles:
The Eagles fan base is known for being less than entirely classy. It’ll be interesting to see the the fans in Detroit can keep theirs’ when they see Jim Schwartz trot out onto the field.
The Eagles offense was a mess last season, and with rumors that they are looking at either a QB or Ezekiel Elliott in the 1st round, their pass game is likely to still be clipped. But with Schwartz at DC and quite a bit of talent on that side of the ball, they probably won’t be an easy team to put points on.
Week 6 vs. Rams:
Did I say poor QB play? The Rams traded up to the #1 pick in a move that I consider even more baffling than the Redskins/Rams trade for RG3. It’s presumed they’ll take a QB and word is it’s Carson Wentz.
Let me tell you as an NDSU fan. If they trot Wentz out on the field, with that OL, against the Lions DL… I smell mutton.
Still, the Rams defense dominated Detroit last season and could do the same if the OL isn’t playing better.
Week 7 vs. Redskins:
I’m going to play it safe and not make any jokes on this one…
Weird team. It’s hard to look at any of their wins from last season and actually be impressed. They picked on their division and got slaughtered by all the “good” teams they played. They stat out relatively well, but again, they did it against one of the easiest schedules in the league. And Kirk Cousins? The real deal or one hit wonder?
Anyway, I suspect they’ll get a reality check this year, although they may still stumble into winning the division.
Week 8 @ Texans:
Classic everything but the QB team. They have a solid (if overrated) defense. Good OL and great offensive skill players. So, they took a chance on the Brock Lobster. I can’t blame them. But I’ll be surprised if he can steer them to victory.
Okay, back to how their D was overrated. Houston allowed the 3rd fewest yards, but they were tied for 7th in points and 10th for passer rating allowed. Still very good stats, but not as dominant as their reputation implies.
Tough road game, but probably winnable if the Lions are spreading defenses by that point. At midway, Detroit will have played a little over half of the games that project as really tough.
Weeks 9-13 Abide The Bye
Week 9 @ Vikings:
Getting beat twice by the Vikes was a bitter pill to swallow last year. I live in Vikes territory and it always stings. And while I think Minnesota’s win total last year was in part the benefit of favorable scheduling (playing teams at just the right time), I don’t expect them to be a worse team this year. If anything, expect small improvement.
Teddy is still mediocre, but unless Peterson starts to finally show his wear, that won’t matter too much. They’ll control the ball, run down the clock, and score every once in awhile. Meanwhile, their defense has as many, if not more, young bloomers as Detroit.
Expect a defensive blood bath that we’ll lose if we can’t get a run game going.
Week 10 Bye:
I always prefer a late bye. It gives you a chance to adjust and prepare for the playoff push. Not sure how much it plays out that way statistically, but it feels right.
Week 11 vs. Jaguars:
Despite expecting some improvement, I would have preferred to see a better team following the bye. I should be careful what I wish for.
The Jags passing offense has major teeth. If our secondary is banged up, this could easily turn into a shootout. Fortunately, only one team allowed more points last year, so a shootout might be okay.
Week 12 vs Vikings:
Our first home game in the division. It’s likely a must win if the team is in the hunt. Minnesota fans are getting a little big for their britches. It’d be nice to take them down a peg and disrupt their pass game to get some turnovers.
Week 13 @ Saints:
Rob Ryan is a terrible defensive coordinator and he’s proved it over and over. Last year the Saints allowed a whopping 29.8 points per game. Well, Rob is gone but they’ll need a miracle to turn that defense around quickly.
This is another potential shootout game, because while their defense will likely be bad, their offense puts up a ton of yards. If Coby Fleener brings them a better red zone threat, they could match those yards with points.
Weeks 14-17 Revenge
Week 14 vs Bears:
Hopefully Detroit will have won in week 4, the Bears are collapsing, and Chicago fans are calling for Cutler’s head… again. This would be a shot at 8 wins in a row. I have to doubt that the Lions have ever had an 8 game win streak against a single team. Get em.
Week 15 @ Giants:
The Giants spent big in FA, especially on defense. Whether or not those pieces will prove big for the team or not is a good question. As we all know, marquee FAs don’t often pan out. However, if they do, it could bring a big improvement to one of the worst defenses in the league last year.
Meanwhile, their offense is deceptively good. They rely heavily on the Eli to Beckham Jr. connection and Slay will have his work cut out for him. Could be another high score, although Detroit’s defense should trump here. Personally, I’m making my wager here that the Giants have another sub par year and Coughlin is on the way out.
Week 16 @ Dallas:
It seems like we play Dallas a lot. Many of the teams most memorable moments over the last five years have come from those three matchups. It’s bred some sense of rivalry. If either of these teams is in the hunt, this will be no different.
Fortunately, getting Dallas late in the year is probably a good thing. The Cowboys have had disappointing finishes more often than not over recent history. Romo has persistent health (broken back, sorry, low hanging fruit) issues and, as we know, Linehan is not the best at making adjustments as the year goes on.
Dallas did pick up a lot of talent in FA, although mostly depth. Depending on Romo, this could be a very tough matchup.
Week 17 vs. Packers:
Since 2011, the Lions have had to play 4 away division games in week 17, including twice against the Packers. Finally, the shoe is on the other foot. Hopefully this game means something, and if it does, it’s great to have the home field.
What does it all mean?
In the end, a lot can (and probably will) change, but the Lions 2016 schedule might be the most favorable they’ve had in a long time. It sucks that it’s coming on a year that has so much uncertainty, but it might just be enough to help the team stay relevant through the year.