Caldwell must get through tough first few weeks


Road games against Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers in the 1st 3 weeks will be a tough test for this 2016 Lions team.

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

New Lions GM Bob Quinn surprised fans when he decided to keep Coach Caldwell for the 2016 season. After getting off to a 1-7 start last season, the team had little chance of making the Postseason. A year later, the Lions must avoid a similar start if Caldwell has any chance of making it through the regular season. Many believe Quinn has Caldwell on a short leash after the 7-9 record in 2015.

While this year’s schedule looks to be much easier overall, the early portion may determine Caldwell’s fate. The Lions go on the road to Green Bay and Indianapolis in two out of the first three weeks. Tennessee comes to Ford Field in week two and will be no cake-walk, with young franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota behind center.  Detroit plays 3 of their first 4 games on the road.

  • Week 1: Away against the Colts.
  • Week 2: Home against the Titans.
  • Week 3: Away against the Packers.
  • Week 4: Away against the Bears.

The Lions must defeat Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck to avoid a possible 1-2, or perhaps even 0-3 start. Coach Caldwell is already on the hot seat but he must win one of these two games if he wants hopes keep this organization’s belief that he is the right coach.

The schedule gets much easier after that so the Lions will have a chance to go on a winning streak regardless of how they fair over the first couple of games. Starting a new season with a losing record, however, won’t do much to inspire Quinn’s faith in Caldwell. I’m not suggesting Caldwell would lose his job if the team starts off 1-2, but as Lions fans know all too well, these things tend to spiral out of control. Plus, the fanbase was already split on whether or not Caldwell should have been brought back in the first place.

I think the Lions can beat the Colts on the road in week one, but Andrew Luck will be eager to prove he is worth the $87 million that is guaranteed in his new mega-contract. Luck struggled to stay healthy last season but he’s the real deal. Talent-wise, the Lions may be better than the Colts overall, but franchise quarterbacks tend to win home-openers.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass under pressure from Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (94) during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Detroit won 18-16. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Lions lose week one, they certainly won’t be favored to win week three at Lambeau Field. Last year, they broke their 20+ year losing streak in Wisconsin, but to think they can win there twice in two years feels like wishful thinking. Over the past three seasons, the Lions have split with the Packers, so the gap between the two franchises appears to be shrinking.

Matthew Stafford got the monkey off of his back last season and did play as good as he’s ever played over the final eight games of the year. But, it’s hard to change fan’s opinions when your best football comes against weaker competition after you’ve essentially already been eliminated from Playoff contention.

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If the Lions can make it through the first few weeks and stay at .500 or better, they should be able to stay in the Playoff hunt for the majority of the season at least. If they get out to an 0-4 start, Caldwell likely will be be gone.  The players fought hard over the second half of last season to convince management to let Caldwell stay on as head coach. Now they will have to produce for him, particularly early on, for him to keep his job for another year.