Dave Birkett Detroit Free Press
Published 8:08 PM EDT Apr 17, 2019
A lot can change in four months. It sure did last year.
When the Detroit Lions’ schedule came out last April, I had the team going 9-7. Then I got a look at the team in training camp, saw how players were reacting to first-year coach Matt Patricia, and I promptly ratcheted down my expectations to 7-9 before the start of the season.
Turns out, even that was too optimistic as the Lions won all of six games. But the locker room has undergone major turnover since the end of last season and this year’s schedule, with games against the last-place teams in the NFC South and West, and the NFC North not as strong as it once was, seems a tad easier to navigate.
With that in mind, here’s a way-too-early, don’t-hold-me-to-it, game-by-game prediction of what the Lions will do in 2019.
Week 1: at Arizona Cardinals (4:25 p.m., Fox) – The Lions got housed in their opener by a rookie quarterback last year because they were beat up coming out of camp. Until I see Patricia throttle down this summer, that’s enough for me to believe they’ll lose a winnable game against potentially another rookie this year. Pick: Cardinals 24, Lions 20
Week 2: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (1 p.m., CBS) – This is a tough home opener. If Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen stay healthy, the Chargers have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Pick: Chargers 30, Lions 24
Week 3: at Eagles (1 p.m., Fox) – Patricia’s defense couldn’t stop the Eagles the last time they met, in Super Bowl LII. He’ll do everything he can to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Pick: Lions 27, Eagles 20
Week 4: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1 p.m., Fox) – Patricia gave Bill Belichick advice on how to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl last year. Perhaps Belichick can repay him this fall with advice on how to stop Patrick Mahomes. Pick: Chiefs 31, Lions 17
Week 5: Bye – It’s early in the season, but welcome after a 1-3 start.
Week 6: at Green Bay Packers (Monday Night Football, 8:15 p.m., ESPN) – After reading all about how Aaron Rodgers was a pain in the you-know-what this offseason, I’m convinced he’s going to have one of his best seasons ever in 2019. Pick: Packers 27, Lions 21
Week 7: vs. Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m., Fox) – Could Mike Zimmer be out if the Vikings underachieve this year? The Lions will do their best to find out. Pick: Lions 20, Vikings 17
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Week 8: vs. New York Giants (1 p.m., Fox) – Odell Beckham Jr. is gone, but Golden Tate is now a Giant. And man, won’t he be wishing he was still catching passes from Matthew Stafford by midseason. Pick: Lions 23, Giants 13
Week 9: at Oakland Raiders (4:05 p.m., Fox) – The Raiders won’t be very good again this year, but in their final season in Oakland, Jon Gruden’s team will be tough to beat at home. Pick: Raiders 26, Lions 24
Week 10: at Chicago Bears (1 p.m., CBS) – It’s déjà vu. The Lions play the Bears, the class of the NFC North, on Week 10 and on Thanksgiving for the second straight year. Pick: Bears 23, Lions 17
Week 11: vs. Dallas Cowboys (1 p.m., Fox) – The Cowboys will be plenty of people’s favorites to win the NFC East, but I have a hunch about this one after the Lions let a win slip away when they couldn’t recover a late Dak Prescott fumble in Dallas last year. Pick: Lions 24, Cowboys 21
Week 12: at Washington (1 p.m., Fox) – No idea who Washington’s quarterback will be at this point, but if it’s someone on their current roster the Lions should get a road win. Pick: Lions 27, Washington 23
Week 13: vs. Chicago Bears (Thanksgiving, 12:30 p.m., Fox) – Since a national TV audience missed the whole Mitchell Trubisky experience last Thanksgiving, the NFL went ahead and decided to give it to everyone again. Pick: Bears 24, Lions 19
Week 14: at Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m., Fox) – The Lions have 7.5 months to devise a way to block Danielle Hunter, and that’s not enough time. Pick: Vikings 16, Lions 10
Week 15: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers(1 p.m., Fox) – Part of me thinks coach Bruce Arians is rolling with Jameis Winston this year just so he can have his choice of quarterbacks in next year’s draft. Pick: Lions 28, Bucs 17
Week 16: at Denver Broncos (Saturday or Sunday, TBD TV) – New Broncos coach Vic Fangio had his way with the Lions offense as Bears defensive coordinator last year. Now he’s got two elite pass rushers to get after Stafford in Denver. Pick: Broncos 17, Lions 16
Week 17 vs. Green Bay Packers (1 p.m., Fox) – The Lions and Packers meet in Week 17 for the fourth straight year, and once again the Lions have little to play for. Pick: Lions 30, Packers 21
So there you have it. A 7-9 record in Patricia’s second season as Lions coach. It won’t be enough to get the Lions to the playoffs, but it’s better than last year … by a game.
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