Detroit Lions Schedule: 5 Games You Don't Wanna Miss

Gerard MartinCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2011

Detroit Lions Schedule: 5 Games You Don't Wanna Miss

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    The NFL season is a constantly evolving beast but even before it begins, five games stand out as must-sees for any Detroit Lions fan.

    If the Lions are going to elevate themselves to playoff contention in 2011, they’ll have to treat every game like a must-win. Yet even knowing that, there are still some games that mean a little bit extra.

    Whether it’s a collision with a traditional rival or a clash with a consistent powerhouse, these games figure to be the most important and entertaining games of the Detroit Lions’ season.

Sunday, September 11 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Detroit Lions have been one of the best teams in the NFL during the 2011 preseason, but we won’t really know anything about them until they take the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 11. Like Ebby Calvin LaLoosh, the Lions are determined to announce their presence with authority. Let’s hope that approach works better in football than it did in baseball.

    The Lions and Bucs played a fantastic game last season. Both squads have only gotten better since then.

    Both are teams on the rise led by young quarterbacks with seemingly limitless potential. Both are led by promising young coaches and have focused on building through the defensive line. Both figure to be in the playoff conversation for years to come in the NFC.

    Detroit will be challenged by Tampa Bay on both sides of the ball, but a commanding performance in this match-up could springboard the Lions to success throughout the 2011 NFL season.

Sunday, October 2 at Dallas Cowboys

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    Any game at Jerry World is a must-see, but this one will be especially compelling for the Detroit Lions.

    This contest against Dallas will be the Lions’ third road game out of their first four. The old Lions would enter this game as a 10-point underdog and lose by 24. A positive reaction (and a win) from these Lions would serve notice to the rest of the NFL that they are no longer the “same old Lions”.

    Good teams win tough road games.

    Though they would seem to have a talent advantage, the Cowboys are actually a good matchup for the Lions. The Dallas offensive line has been reshuffled during the off-season and will struggle to subdue the Detroit pass rush. If the Lions can get to Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford’s first pro game in his home state could be a landmark victory.

    The Cowboys are “America’s Team”. They’re the Notre Dame of the NFL. No matter how good the team is, a win against the Dallas Cowboys always feels special. The Lions have historically played well against the Cowboys, and I don’t expect this game to be any different.

Monday, October 10 vs. Chicago Bears

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    This is the most important game of the Detroit Lions’ season.

    For the first time in ten years, Monday Night Football will kick off from Detroit, Michigan. If an appearance on Monday night somehow isn’t enough to get the Lions fired up, they need only to think back to the two heartbreaking losses they suffered at the hands of the Chicago Bears last season.

    On both occasions, Detroit had the upper hand in the game, only to see victory slip through their fingers.

    Even beyond the Lions’ 2011 quest for revenge, this rivalry has intensified over the last few years. As the Lions try to rise up out of the NFC North basement, the Bears are determined to defend their territory as the class of the division.

    This game will be a war.

    There will be pushing, shoving, personal fouls, hard hits and everything else that happens when two football teams that just plain don’t like each other get together. It will be a great test for both the Lions and the Bears and a great treat for football fans across America. If the Lions can defend their home turf against their most hated division rival, it would be a huge confidence boost for a developing football team.

Sunday, October 23 vs. Atlanta Falcons

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    Near the halfway point of the NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons’ visit to Ford Field will be a proverbial “measuring stick” for the Detroit Lions. Atlanta has been one of the best teams in the conference over the last few years and should only get better with the addition of rookie wideout Julio Jones.

    Even so, the Lions will be in great position to notch a win against Atlanta. This will be Detroit’s third consecutive home game. The Lions should be settled in on both sides of the ball and ready to deliver their best effort against the Falcons.

    Atlanta has a solid offensive line and a full complement of talented receivers, a combination that will challenge the Detroit defense. This is the type of game when a truly great player will put the team on his back. That’s exactly what I expect from Ndamukong Suh in this contest.

    Suh will make it his mission to get well acquainted with Matt Ryan and to, in turn, introduce Ryan to the comforts of the turf at Ford Field.

    If Suh and his linemates can break through the Falcons offensive line, the Lions could grab a big win against Atlanta.

Sunday, January 1 at Green Bay Packers

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    As I wrote earlier this week, I believe that the Green Bay Packers are the biggest obstacle standing in the way of an NFC North title for the Detroit Lions. But regardless of who has the upper hand in the division at this point, the final game of the season will mean something to at least one of these teams.

    Detroit and Green Bay played two tight contests last year, with the home team winning each time. The Lions proved that they could hang with the Packers during the regular season, but that was before they were the defending champs. That fact raises the stakes even more in a game that was already loaded with meaning.

    The Lions haven’t tasted victory at Lambeau since 2003. They haven’t made the playoffs since 1999.

    On New Year’s Day 2012, the Detroit Lions may be in position to put an end to both of those streaks.