I remember in the 1990s, anticipating the release of the NFL Schedule and having merely mild interest in the NFL Draft. There was usually optimism that with the schedule announcement I’d learn that the Lions would have a game on Monday Night Football – one of my favorite football traditions.
In the 90s the NFL draft, when the Lions were routinely picking in the 20s, wasn’t nearly as interesting to me. From my perspective, it was pointless to speculate who the next Detroit Lion would be when they normally picked lower in the 1st round.
Conversely, during the last decade with the Lions redefining abysmal, the release of the schedule became a mere formality. The Lions either played the Packers or one of two AFC opponents at home on Thanksgiving, the rest was just which predetermined opponent did they play on which Sunday. The NFL draft, however, was fun. We didn’t have to look down draft boards too far to see who might be a Lion. From 2002 to 2010, the Lions picked in the top 3 four times and in the top ten eight times.
However, after the Lions vaulted back into the playoffs again with a 10-6 record last season, I find myself feeling that everything has come full circle. It’s February and I have barely looked at a Mock Draft (the Lions will pick 23rd) but have been paying attention to any scheduling news. We do know who they play. Besides their six division games, the Lions have the Rams, Seahawks, Falcons, Colts and Texans at home. They have the Cards, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars and Titans on the road. Additionally, the Lions will play the Colts or Texans on Thanksgiving since they’re in an AFC/CBS year for that game. We also know that the Lions will have at least one primetime game. Judging by the Lions high powered offense fueled by the star factor of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson and the villain factor of Ndamukong Suh and coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions will definitely be considered a national draw in 2012. The 2011 Kansas City Chiefs played three times on primetime coming off their successful 2010. Expect the Lions to get the same in 2012.
Here’s how I see the ranking from 16 to 1 as the most likely to end up in a primetime slot.
16. St. Louis Rams (home): No way. The only possible angle is the Fisher/Schwartz, mentor/student angle…but the Rams will only get 1 primetime game and it won’t be this one.
15. Jaguars (away): The Jags are extremely unmarketable. Their sole primetime game will be against a large following team like the Pats, Jets, Bears or Packers.
14. Seahawks (home): I don’t see any chance for this one either. The Seahawks came on a little at the end of last year, but this doesn’t look like a good match-up for them–especially on the road.
13. Colts (home): Slim chance this will be the Thanksgiving game, probably no shot at a primetime game, especially since the Colts are rebuilding.
12. Texans (home): This is so low since there’s a 95% chance this is the Thanksgiving game. If the NFL decides to showcase Andrew Luck in that game, however, this one has a shot at primetime since it features two up and coming teams.
11. Cardinals (road): Mild shot with this game. Features the two best wideouts in football in Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. If Peyton Manning signs in Arizona, the odds shoot up for this one.
10. Vikings (away): Doubtful, but the Lions could end up being the Vikings’ solitary primetime game.
9. Vikings (home): Slightly more probable they’d have a primetime game against the Vikings at home, rather than on the road merely for the fact that I’m nearly certain one of the Lions road games will be in primetime (see #1).
8. Titans (away): Intriguing matchup. I’d be surprised but not shocked if this game were in primetime. It offers a homecoming for Schwartz, Kyle Vanden Boesch and possibly Stephen Tulloch–if he resigns.
7. Bears (home): They could very well get the Bears in primetime, however I’d be surprised if it came in a rematch of their 2011 MNF contest.
6. Eagles (road): Despite a highly disappointing 2011, the Eagles are still heavily hyped by the national media. There’s a legit shot for this game.
5. Packers (road): They’ll get the Packers on the Sunday Night or Monday Night game. I’m betting it’s the home game though.
4. Falcons (home): A lot of bad blood came out of the 2010 contest between these two teams. A rematch at Ford Field in primetime could be fun.
3. Bears (road): A good draw potential for this game. The pecking order in the NFC North seems to be shifting and this game could be a good chance to renew a bitter rivalry that’s been dormant for years.
2. Packers (home): Like I said, the Lions will play the Packers in primetime. This will be a good barometer to see how far the Lions and Ndamukong Suh have matured since the “Stomp Heard ‘Round the World”.
1. 49ers (away): This is a no brainer to me. You know these two teams don’t like each other and the NFL will play that up. The 49ers might have got a gift in Detroit last year thanks to several questionable calls late in their victory against the Lions. After the game, we all know the bad blood that took place between Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. The NFL will jump all over this game.
Well, that does it. My breakdown of the 2012 Detroit Lions games most likely to be featured in primetime. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how close/far off you think I am in the comments below.
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