Expectations. It’s one of the things that are set for teams with the NFL’s annual schedule release, along with the order of which teams play each other. The Detroit Lions, after ending the season on an impressively strong run and having a strong offseason, are one of the teams with much heightened expectations going into the 2023 season. The team, who has faced its fair share of woes in recent history, is favored to win its division for the first time in many years thanks to the quick development of the team. The NFL has taken notice, and with the schedule that it set for the Lions in 2023, there’s a clear message that is being sent to Detroit. They’re telling the Lions in no uncertain terms that they see what the team is capable of, and it’s time to prove it to the world.
Prime Time Games
Prime time games are usually given to teams or matchups that are considered must-watch tv by the NFL’s standards. That’s why it’s so telling that the first game to start the entire NFL season is Thursday Night Football between the Detroit Lions and defending Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs.
The opening game on Thursday Night week 1 is the biggest prime time game of the year, as it’s to kick off the season and football fans everywhere are expected to be watching. The Lions will have an opportunity to show off the improvements that they’ve made in front of the whole world, and if they’re able to knock out the defending champs in their stadium to start the season, the momentum that will bring will be immense as they’ll get a long week going into week 2.
The Lions also play 3 other prime time games this season, Monday night games against the Green Bay Packers and Las Vegas Raiders, as well a Saturday game facing the Dallas Cowboys in week 17. The Lions play their annual Thanksgiving game versus Green Bay as well. This goes to show the league is trusting the Lions to play exciting enough football that they’ll bring in viewers.
Divisional/Conference Game Placement
Looking at the Lions schedule for 2023, one thing sticks out other than the number of prime time games. After their bye week, the Lions play 9 games with 7 of them being in conference games. 5 of those are divisional games. This means that all of the games that the Lions play in the back half of the season are going to be important for standings and playoff seeding. The most notable, however, are the two Vikings matchups that both come within the last 3 weeks of the season.
From a scheduling standpoint, having two divisional opponents play each other twice in the last 3 weeks means that the NFL expects those games to be important for who wins the division. It makes sense then that the Lions and Vikings, who are considered to be the top 2 teams in the NFC North division, will be facing off late in the season. The Lions also play the Bears twice in the back half of the season, which will be important games for them. The Lions playing the Packers on prime time will tell us all we need to know about the new Jordan Love offense in Green Bay.
So what does this all mean for Detroit? What does the schedule they were given tell us about them? All we can take out of it truly is that the Lions are being told that it’s time for them to put up or shut up. They’re being showcased to the fans as must-watch television, and they will be expected to perform as such. It all starts with perhaps their toughest matchup of the season in week one, and if they’re able to live up to the hype, then Lions fans may finally have something to be excited about and proud to see.