With The Regular Season Finished, The Detroit Lions 2018 Opponents Have Been Set.
The 2017 season is in the books. The Detroit Lions finish with a winning record of 9-7, but miss the playoffs. Head coach Jim Caldwell was fired due to his lack of production this year, which puts the team in a difficult position. Will the next head coach have a greater input on personnel decisions? Will the coach be better or worse at developing the talent on the team, or have a better playbook? Also there is a question of who on staff will stay.
This leaves the 2018 season with far too many questions even this early in the year to have an understanding of how the team could perform against opponents. This offseason could bring the Detroit Lions change similar to how Sean McVay affected the Los Angeles Rams, or could be the worse decision for the team in a generation. There’s a lot of pressure on general manager Bob Quinn to get this team to the next level.
Here is a look at the 2018 opponents:
NFC North Division Opponents:
This part of the season never changes, the Lions always play the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers both home and away. The division has not gotten any easier, even though the team was able to win five of six games in 2017. This finish was much in part to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone early in the season and his replacement being a better quarterback for opposing teams. The Packers will not be so easy next year if Rodgers is able to make a full recovery.
The Lions were able to split their series with the Vikings do largely to playing them early, before quarterback Case Keenum got full control of the offense and took off. By the Thanksgiving game though the Vikings offense was like a boulder rolling down a steep hill. Look for their offense to remain strong next season, especially with the addition of running back Dalvin Cook from injured reserve.
While the Bears are also going through a coaching shake up with the recent dismissal of John Fox, they are still in the midst of a major rebuild. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has had flashes of greatness, and while running back Jordan Howard carried the team this season, they shouldn’t pose much of a threat in 2018.
AFC East Division Opponents:
Every division plays a rotating division in the opposing conference and this coming season the NFC North is slated to play the AFC East. The Lions will play the New England Patriots and the New York Jets at Ford Field, and will visit the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots will be the toughest opponent for the Lions in 2018, possibly coming off a Super Bowl win. The team could be in a bit of a transition as there are many teams hoping to pull offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia away. Granted the only coach that has seemed to really matter for them has been head coach Bill Belichick. Being a home game for the Lions should help the team’s chances, maybe a new coach and another offseason will bring the Lions to Super Bowl caliber contention.
The Lions will also host the Jets, who over performed in 2017 after most analysts thought they could possibly go 0-16. It will be interesting to watch this team in the offseason, if they will make any big free agent signings or move on from quarterback Josh McCown. They shouldn’t be much of a threat to the Lions in 2018 barring major regression from Detroit.
On the road the team will face the Dolphins and meet former Lion, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. There are rumors that the Dolphins may walk away from Suh after June 1st in an effort to save on the $17 million cap hit his contract levies. Miami could make some major movements in the offseason to change their lot, but as they stand they aren’t much of a contender.
The other visit the Lions will make to the AFC East will be in Buffalo. They were able to inch into the playoffs this season, even after giving rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman the start over Tyrod Taylor for a whole five interceptions worth of a game. The disrespect the Bills have given Taylor may cause him to look to leave Buffalo this offseason, easily paralyzing the Bills offense.
NFC West Division Opponents:
One of the hottest teams this season, and the most improved over the 2017 offense, the Los Angeles Rams will visit the Motor City. They have an electric offense with quarterback Jared Goff at the helm, and a superb defense. The Rams very well could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this season, and should still be a powerhouse next season.
A former Super Bowl contender, the Seattle Seahawks, will also visit Detroit. Seattle missed the playoffs this season and have been slowly falling back into mediocrity. They are in desperate need of a running back to help out an offense that rests on the shoulders of quarterback Russel Wilson. They could become a contender again with a good draft and keeping their “Legion of Boom” defense intact.
An interesting opponent the Lions will face on the road next season will be the 49ers. They have looked terrible the last few years, racking up 1-2 wins in a season. All that changed when they traded for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The team is still in a rebuild but they have seemed to have found their quarterback of the future, it will be interesting to see how they improve next year.
The final NFC West opponent the Lions will face next season is the Arizona Cardinals. They have lost both their quarterback Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians to retirement this week, and are looking at a major rebuild this offseason. They have a many players still on the team that are in the twilight of their career, like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back Adrian Peterson. The only set piece they still have on offense is running back David Johnson who will be coming back from injured reserve.
NFC South And East Opponents
The Lions will play host to the Carolina Panthers next season. The Panthers had an up and down season this year, defeating the Detroit Lions on their way to a wildcard berth. While they do have some turmoil brewing with their owner being forced to sell the team due to comments he made during the season. Who knows how this will affect the play of the team, but not much should change.
The NFC East team that the Lions will visit the Dallas Cowboys next season, a rival that has kicked the team out of the playoffs or contention in years past. Quarterback Dak Prescott will be in his third season at the helm and will have his bell-cow running back Ezekiel Elliot for the full season. They missed the playoffs this season, but could comeback to former glory next season especially if they can fix their secondary.
So much can happen between now and next season that it is an exercise in futility to try and accurately predict the coming seasons win loss record. There is no way of knowing how the Lions coaching change will affect the team, or how Quinn’s third offseason will better the team. Also as we saw with the Rams, bad teams can make major offseason strides to compete. It is the NFL after all. That being said, if all things remain equal the Detroit Lions are set up for an 8-8 season based on the opponents that were released this week.