The time has come in Detroit for the Lions to be legitimate. The Millen era has ended with last year's 0-16 record. Now under the power of the Schwartz, the Lions will have a chance to make Ford Field a location worthy of the magic that Comerica Park and Joe Louis Arena both share.
2009 will be tough, with the Lions changing everything except the team colors in an effort to start anew. A fan base that could have easily walked has decided to still show support with record numbers attending the open practices.
The first six games of the season will set the tone for the Lions.
If they can make some noise with these games, the Lions will have turned the corner toward giving Detroit back its football team. The matchups at least on paper or online do in a way favor the Lions if the Lions can just play.
WEEK 0NE - THE SAINTS
The Saints will be a tough test for the first game as the Lions will start on the road in the Superdome. The fans of New Orleans will cheer their team with an added intensity to insure that the Saints do not end the Lions losing streak.
The match-up of concern will be with the Lions defense.
The Lions will have four threats to defend against. Drew Brees and his 5,069 passing yards from last season will be in encore mode. Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson will be ready to help Brees get back to 5,000.
Reggie Bush is a multi-tooled running back who will have every Lions defender on edge if he has the ball. Jeremy Shockey and Billy Miller as tight ends are equally good as blockers or receivers.
Larry Foote and Julian Peterson will have the Lions 4-3 defense ready for the short stuff. The concern will be in the secondary. Phlilip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, along with rookie Louis Delmas, will not get a chance to sit even on the sidelines making sure those Saints receivers do not break for any long gains.
WEEK TWO - THE VIKINGS
The main match-up against their NFC North rival will not be with the offensive side of the ball. Even though the Vikings have the best running back in the world in Adrian Peterson, their quarterback concerns have not really been solved.
The Vikings have one of the best defensive lines in football. The Williams Wall of Pat and Kevin, along with Jared Allen, will be a big concern for the Lions offense. These three are good enough that all five offensive lineman will be busy on every single down trying to reintroduce themselves to former Viking Daunte Culpepper or welcome Matthew Stafford to the NFL.
Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Lions receivers will have to get their routes right and catch the ball. They can't afford to make a lot of drops like they made against the Falcons in their first preseason game on Saturday.
Kevin Smith will need his line, along with the tight ends Brian Pettigrew and Will Heller, to give him some space. Smith needs to create enough of a distraction on the ground so that Culpepper/Stafford will get the space they need to bring the first home victory to the Lions in over a year.
WEEK THREE - THE REDSKINS
The Redskins will be an intriguing match up in that the Lions will face them in Detroit. The Lions have not beaten the Redskins in Washington.
The Redskins are built on a team concept, even though they have the likes of Clinton Portis and his outfits.
The Lions will be equally busy on both sides of the ball. Portis, receivers Santana Moss, Antwain Randle El, and tight end Chris Cooley will give the Lions defense a Sunday afternoon headache if they are not careful.
However the Lions do have an ace in the hole in that Jon Jansen, who was on the Redskins offensive line last season, is now a Lion. His knowledge of their system will aid the Schwartz and Cunningham in drawing up schemes to take down the Redskins.
The Lions offensive line will have fits trying to stop all-world defender Albert Haynesworth. But the Schwartz was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee last season, so he should be able have some strategy for Scott Linehan to use to keep Hanyesworth from getting into the backfield.
Rookie Brian Orakpo will also be watched as he is already No. 1 on the Redskins depth chart.
WEEK FOUR - THE BEARS
The Soldier Field faithful will be in a frenzy to welcome the Lions to Chicago. The Bears are also a balanced team that creates serious concern on both sides of the ball.
The Lions will be busy on this Sunday in October.
Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs lead this version of the Monsters of the Midway with a hard-hitting style that will continue the black and blue tradition that defines the Lions-Bears rivalry.
The Lions offensive line will have make sure these all-world linebackers don't get to Culpepper/Stafford or flatten Kevin Smith.
Jay Cutler finally puts to rest the quarterback debate in Chicago. This is his team, as Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman are now gone.
He has Devin Hester who is not the best receiver. However since his kickoff return career seems to be over, he will be more focused on just being a receiver.
Along with Earl Bennett and others, Hester and the Bears receivers will see a new Lions secondary that won't give them any space.
WEEK FIVE - THE STEELERS
The Steelers are the only team besides the Lions to make fans at Ford Field cheer for them, as they won Super Bowl XL there.
As defending NFL champs the Steelers are rewarded with a target on their backs.
The match-up that will be of greatest interest will be Larry Foote against his old team. He was one of the Steelers' best players on defense, and now he will face the only team he had played for in the NFL until this season.
He knows their tricks on offense and their schemes on defense. However can the Lions pick his brain well enough so that when the Steel Curtain comes to town, the light still gets through?
The Steel Curtain defense and the Steelers offense both have a great deal of talent for the Lions to face. James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Troy Polamalu will give the Lions' offense nightmares leading up to this game.
They are not the type of players a team can defend. They are the type of players you make sure haven't found you when you have the ball.
On offense the only good thing is that the Steelers' running game is not the most productive. However, Willie Parker and others will still make noise.
Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are not the easiest receivers to defend. But with recent rule changes, Ward won't be able to take runs at defensive backs like he use to.
Foote and the Lions defense will have to key on Ben Roethlisberger. The need to force him to run so he won't be able to pull some magic like he did in winning the Super Bowl in the last seconds back in February.
WEEK SIX - THE PACKERS
The Packers are Aaron Rodgers' team. He was a fantasy football hit last season as he put up a ton of yards week after week. He also has Lambeau Field as a 12th man, as it has a rowdy crowd and lousy weather to torture opposing teams.
Last season the Lions lost to the Packers in their final game to go 0-16.
This season will be different as the Lions are not playing the Packers late in the season in Green Bay. They are playing instead on October 18—prior to their bye week—so it will only be cold.
The Packers are also an equally balanced team.
Rodgers has proved his worth as a QB with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver to throw to and Brian Grant to run circles around opposing defensive players.
The Lions defense will be busy in this match-up. Buchanon and Henry will have to stick to Jennings and Driver like glue all afternoon. Foote, Peterson and everyone else will have to hit Grant quickly before he engages his jets.
On offense, Culpepper/Stafford will be careful as the Packers have one of the best corner combos in Charles Woodson and Al Harris. They can match up with Calvin Johnson in speed but not in height.
Running will be tough as the Packers upgraded their defensive line with B.J Raji. Nick Barnett offers the same intensity that Larry Foote does for the Lions.
All in all, it will be a perfect game to play prior to a week off to complete the rest of the season.