The NFL regular season schedule was released today, and I suppose that there will be many angles with respect to the ongoing CBA litigation and the many motions and appeals to come.
Let’s assume (ha!) that the 2011 season will go off without a hiccup and look at the upcoming Lions schedule, as well as the rest of the NFC North.
My angle is this: How do we assess the Lions chances, vis-a-vis their division foes?
Realistically, Lions fans should focus on winning the division first. Everything that follows is a bonus.
Let’s go, gang!
Week 1: Detroit at Tampa Bay
The Lions return to the scene of the crime, so to say.
The Lions stole a victory over the 2010 playoff-contending Bucs with some stout defense and two late Dave Rayner field goals. Oh, and it was at their place.
We don’t know, at this time, what changes are in order for either team, but I would be willing to speculate in these tumultuous times that the Lions will have the better of it on draft weekend.
The Bucs simply can’t matchup with the Lions' defensive front. Matt Stafford goes off, as opposed to going on the IR.
Other NFC North games in Week 1
New Orleans @ Green Bay
An intriguing marquee matchup in Week 1. I give the champs the nod here.
The Packers open at home, where they rule against all comers. Next?
Atlanta @ Chicago
The Falcons get done what the Lions were so tantalizingly close to doing in the 2010 opener.
I like Atlanta, the better team, to win a close one.
Minnesota @ San Diego
The Vikings QB situation and the impending defection of DL Ray Edwards is more than this “Favreless” Vikings team can overcome.
The Chargers rout the Vikes.
Week 2: Kansas City @ Detroit
It’s hard to find holes in a Chiefs team that should contend for a playoff berth in 2011.
I think that the Lions win a close home opener, but this one is a coin flip until we know the draft, and free agency acquisitions.
A fascinating home opener.
Other NFC North games in Week 2
Green Bay @ Carolina
This looks like a walk-over for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is a must for your fantasy QB.
Tampa Bay @ Minnesota
After (hopefully) a close loss in their home opener, the Bucs take it out on the Vikings, and win by 10 points.
I know it’s a road game, but the Bucs get “blacked out,” just for practice.
Chicago @ New Orleans
Geez. I wonder what the spread is on this dog? Poor Bears.
They draw Atlanta in their home opener and get the Saints in Week 2—the NFL version of a “tough patch.”
Week 3: Detroit @ Minnesota
Woohoo! The Lions get to go into Minnesota (Game site TBA) and punish the hapless, rudderless Vikings.
These Lions have learned how to win on the road.
Other NFC North games in Week 3
Green Bay @ Chicago
Poor Bears. I’d send condolence flowers, but they would be rotting by the time that the donkey arrives from Detroit.
The 2010 Super Bowl champs feast upon Cutler and crew. The Bears first three games (Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay) are the worst possible starting assignment in the NFC North.
Week 4: Detroit does Dallas
Can somebody tell me why the Lions always seem to play the ‘Boys in Dallas? Honestly, I don’t get it.
I am certain that Dallas knows that they dodged a bullet last year. This is also the Cowboys home opener and they will be invigorated.
Lions lose a game that looked winnable.
Other NFC North games in Week 4
Minnesota @ Kansas City
The Chiefs know the drill and get it fired up against the Vikings at home.
Minnesota will leave K.C. with another loss.
Carolina @ Chicago
The Bears finally find a team that they can beat. Careful, Chicago, or those Panthers might have a nasty surprise with a certain No. 1 draft pick.
Denver @ Green Bay
Denver is in way over their heads here. The second road game in a row proves to be insurmountable.
Week 5: Chicago @ Detroit on Monday Night Football
“Are you ready for some football?”
After what seems like an Ice Age, the NFL has thawed on this Lions team, and has granted them a Monday Night match up with the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.
Does it get any better than that?
Yummm. The Bears are in for a mauling behind a rabid sell-out crowd. Yes, the Bears beat the Lions twice last year.
The Bears were fortunate in both games. The Lions are looking for payback in 2011.
Other NFC North games in Week 5
Arizona @ Minnesota
Finally, the Vikings find a beatable visiting team in the Cards. The crowd must be getting a little restless by now, don’t you think?
Green Bay @ Atlanta
This is a tough nut to crack and a great match up. I’m giving an early nod to the Falcons in this one, only because of that home cooking thing.
After five weeks, here’s how the NFC North shakes out:
Green Bay 4 - 1
I’ll be back tomorrow with the next segment of the 2011 Lions schedule.
Mike Sudds is a Syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for Drafttek.com.