The Detroit Lions have not reached the playoffs in six seasons. They haven’t won a postseason game in 31. Most years, they only enter the national consciousness when they get blown out on Thanksgiving Day and fans across the country complain that they maintain a legacy stranglehold on the early television window. that holiday.
Last season, Detroit started 1-6. And sure, they ended the season on a winning tear, but they didn’t make the playoffs and they had almost no star players. Ask the average fan to name a Lion. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson? Many suspect QB Jared Goff? Coach Dan Campbell?
This isn’t the New York Jets adding Aaron Rodgers in the offseason.
And yet, as the entire NFL schedule is set to be released Thursday, there are already plenty of signs that Detroit may not be televised, or at least not traditionally, expensive.
The league has announced that the Lions will appear in the opening night game of defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City on Thursday, September 7.
It’s as high profile as a regular season game. The concept of opening night was established in 2002. The Lions, not surprisingly, never appeared in it.
All this comes a year after Detroit had zero regular season games scheduled for prime time. (The Week 17 matchup with Green Bay was moved to Sunday Night due to playoff implications.) Realistically, you can’t play an unrecognizable schedule.
Par for the course. It is the least accomplished franchise in the NFL, with only one playoff victory in the last 65 years.
For the Lions, it’s been scary days, exciting days, and days they’ve gotten to the 8-2 heater that the team went on to end the 2022 season. The disastrous start was too much to overcome in the playoff chase, but in the end Detroit was one of the best teams in the NFC.
Beating Green Bay at Lambeau and keeping the hated Packers out of the playoffs in what turned out to be Rodgers’ last game was enough. Now that Rodgers is gone, the focus is on actually winning the NFC North for the first time in three decades.
So how many nationally televised games will Detroit get this season? How late is Sunday afternoon? What time is Monday?
The release of the NFL schedule is often a tricked-out promotional event that represents no one. Everyone already knows who each team will play and where they will play. Others simply arrange the order.
Perhaps the only drama is finding out if there are new teams that will jump into the rotation of the heavy promotion that is usually reserved for contenders in the Super Bowl or the players of the commercial level of insurance. There is always a flow of things.
It makes sense, for example, that you’ll see more Jacksonville this year than New England. That, not so long ago, would have been funny.
The Jaguars, however, did win a playoff game last year and boast a young, great quarterback in Trevor Lawrence.
And while the New York Jets are also expected to be everywhere next season, a big part of that is the addition of Rodgers, not just a non-playoff team on the rise.
Detroit didn’t prove anything and they didn’t add anyone of note. These are all projections for a roster that general manager Brad Holmes has built like a team, not just one or two elite players.
There’s no doubt that Hutchinson looked good as a rookie. And Goff is a lesser name, but most of that comes from his time with the Los Angeles Rams. He is perhaps most famous for jettisoning Detroit two seasons ago so LA could get Matthew Stafford and win the Super Bowl.
Other than that, it’s not exactly a name-brand list. Which is fine with Holmes and Campbell. No one else has worked that many years in Detroit. The franchise has generational talent (Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson). Perhaps building a complete and balanced team will do it.
Besides, winning creates names, not the other way around.
Of course, now comes the challenge that always plagues the Lions – winning. The spotlight is welcome. No one shirks expectations. The team and fan base are strong. Will they prove they deserve a little attention?
“Look, we don’t want to back down,” Holmes said this offseason. “We don’t want to remain stagnant. We appreciate and are very proud of the success we had last year, but we didn’t make the playoffs.
The goal is set: division title, playoffs and maybe more.
And regardless of history, new and old, if this schedule is released, America will likely have many opportunities to watch and see if it can be achieved.