How the Lions handle the first six games of the 2013 season will be telling.
Four of Detroit’s first six games are on the road, with two road matchups against 2012 playoff teams (Washington, Green Bay). Also, the two home games are against NFC North foes Minnesota (another 2012 postseason entrant) and Chicago. The Lions didn’t win a single division game last season.
Yes, this is a potentially treacherous stretch for Detroit. But it is also one loaded with opportunity.
The Lions open at Ford Field against the Vikings. Then comes that quartet of road games in five weeks — visits to Arizona (Week Two), Washington (Week Three), Green Bay (Week Five) and Cleveland (Week Six).
The Lions’ trip to Green Bay looms as perhaps their toughest away game of the season. Green Bay has won 21 consecutive regular-season home games against Detroit, an NFL record. A victory would rate as a significant upset assuming Green Bay is in reasonably good form. The Lions’ game at Washington also could be quite tough for Detroit to win if Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is in the lineup.
Still, the Lions can compete with Washington. A victory isn’t out of the realm of possibility if the Lions play well. The Lions can also give the Cardinals a stern test; Detroit outgained Arizona when the teams met a season ago, but turnovers doomed the fading Lions. The Browns are also an opponent Detroit can beat.
Four road games in five weeks. It’s not ideal, and it’s a sequence that could hurt Lions’ playoff chances right out of the gate. However, if the Lions emerge with a couple of road wins and hold serve at home against the Vikings and Bears, they will be on solid footing in mid-October with the bulk of their home games left to play.
That said, there are numerous hurdles the Lions face in those final 10 games, with meetings with Green Bay (Week 13) and Baltimore (Week 15) at home and trips to Chicago and Pittsburgh in Weeks 10 and 11 among the challenges. And there are many.
That’s why a reasonably good start could be very valuable to Detroit.
In fact, it may be essential.