It may be a couple weeks early, but I just went through my 2010 NFL predictions and thought I'd throw my two cents in on the Lions. I'm opening the mouth, but will it be a foot, Kool-Aid, cornbread, or a haughty laugh that fills it?
Looking at the game Saturday, I see a team that has improved much, but still shows weakness. With this, and my limited knowledge of the other teams (I can tell history, players, styles, but that's no crystal ball for the future), I present my early look at the Lions season.
As for the division, here's how I see it:
Green Bay: 13-3 (5-1). They're better than last year, and they were nearly this good last year. I'm thinking they're in the 12-14 win range. Not unbreakable, but the best the North's seen in a long time.
Minnesota: 10-6 (3-3). They've won the division the last two years, but not decisively. 2008 showed how close they were to losing to a winless team (twice), and 2009 held a couple of nail biters. You can't always win those (and in the end, they didn't). Anywhere from 8-8 to 11-5 is possible for this team.
Detroit: 7-9 (2-4). We'll go over this game-by-game later. Suffice to say, they have a few winnable games, and some of the "tough" games against playoff contenders hold some favorable matchups. I don't think they'll fall below six games, but I don't think they'll get the breaks they need to go over .500.
Chicago: 5-11 (2-4). Nearly identical to Detroit, Chicago loses a couple of games that Detroit would win. I don't think they've improved as much as Detroit. Anywhere from 4-8 games is possible with this team.
On to the Lions:
Week 1 at Chicago: Wind can wreak havoc on a pass-happy team. I think that Chicago's better used to the conditions, so I have them winning this one. If Detroit can compensate with a good running game, they could steal this one and snap a 15 game division losing streak AND a 20 game road losing streak. Chicago 24-17 (0-1, 0-1)
Week 2 vs. Philadelphia: Home opener, spirits high. I'm still not sold on Kolb over McNabb, but I think Philadelphia's defense is better than Detroit's, even if the offense may be similarly talented. Philadelphia 31-21 (0-2, 0-1)
Week 3 at Minnesota: Always a tough place to play, Minnesota will find that the Lions aren't the pushovers they used to be. However, their defense is superior at this time, and Favre has better experience than Stafford against the D-Line rush we'll see. Minnesota 35-24 (0-3, 0-2)
Week 4 at Green Bay: I thought the start of a season couldn't get any worse than last year. We haven't won in Green Bay since 1991. While the weather won't be freezing, don't expect that to change this year. Maybe 20 will be our lucky number. Green Bay 42-20 (0-4, 0-3)
How many games will the Lions Win?
Yes, I know that puts us at 0-4, but tell me you can see better. Maybe 1-3 if we can pull one out against Chicago, but we'll be lucky to get out of this first month with Stafford and Johnson healthy.
Week 5 vs. St. Louis: Revenge is a dish best served temperature-controlled. Our D-Line has improved too much to have a repeat of last year. Detroit 24-13 (1-4, 0-3)
Week 6 at New York Giants: We might be able to steal one, but it's outside and in New York. I'm still not sure how the New Meadowlands plays out, but I remember being in the old one. The wind was very weird. Lions go on to match the longest road losing streak...theirs. Giants 24-10 (1-5, 0-3)
Week 7 bye. Hey, at least our record won't get worse. Hopefully in the future, we'll look at the bye week with a "but our record won't get better" attitude.
Week 8 vs. Washington: It's not in Washington, so I can actually give the Lions a chance. Shanahan is a genius, I'll give him that. However, his system may not be quite there yet. It'll be tough to stop McNabb and Moss, but I think they'll have the same problems with Stafford and Johnson. Detroit 31-27 (2-5, 0-3)
Week 9 vs. New York Jets: Yes, the Jets made it to the AFC Championship game. That doesn't mean they're unbeatable. Sanchez threw five picks against the nearly-hapless Bills last year. The Jets passing game won't tear up our weakness, and the running game plays to our strength. However, their defense may stifle us more than ours does them. As with the first Chicago game, if we can get the running game going, that might change. Jets 13-10 (2-6, 0-3)
Week 10 at Buffalo: They may match the longest road losing streak, but they won't break it. Even if the snow is falling, I don't think Detroit loses this one. They should be able to run on Buffalo just as easily as they can pass. Detroit 27-14 (3-6, 0-3)
Week 11 at Dallas: I hate Dallas with a passion. Can't stand them or their owner. However, that won't help Detroit on the road against the NFC East champs (last year, and most likely this). Dallas 31-17 (3-7, 0-3)
Week 12 vs. New England (Thanksgiving): As hard of a time as I have picking Detroit over New England (especially since I grew up there so they're my second favorite), I think the Pats are over the hill. They'll still win the division, but they're not the (nearly) invincible team of 2007. I think Detroit will play above their limits for this one and pull off a win in shootout style. Detroit 35-31 (4-7, 0-3)
Week 13 vs. Chicago: No wind means Detroit will not have the problems they'll most certainly have in the first week. This time, Detroit dominates and snaps the division losing streak. Detroit 30-17 (5-7, 1-3)
Week 14 vs. Green Bay: Well we're not in Green Bay, but this matchup still doesn't bode well for the Lions. Rogers tears it up on turf, but maybe finds some worry for next year. Green Bay 42-30 (5-8, 1-4)
Week 15 at Tampa Bay: Nothing like warm weather and lukewarm offense. We'll get to see how Gerald McCoy would have looked for us, but Suh steals the show. Detroit 27-10 (6-8, 1-4)
Week 16 at Miami: I can never get a good gauge on Miami. At least not since the days of Marino. They can beat the Patriots, but lose to Buffalo. They can be on the cusp of a playoff spot, then blow it in the stretch. I really think their curveballs may be too much for the fledgling Lions. Miami 27-21 (6-9, 1-4)
Week 17 vs. Minnesota: Personally, I think Detroit will pull this one off. At this point, Minnesota's clinched a playoff spot, but have no chance to get the Packers for the division. Even if they're not resting, Detroit may match up better with them this year than last. Either way, I have Detroit winning this one. They've improved, Minnesota hasn't. Detroit 24-21 (7-9, 2-4)
I'm rooting for an 8-8 season, and I think it's entirely possible. They have a tough early schedule, but if they can steal a win in the first four, that might be enough for them to make a strong showing. I don't think they'll drop below six, and if they do, I'll be disappointed.