Tough stretches early, late could be challenging for Detroit Lions

Matt Patricia takes over a Lions team that finished 9-7 last season. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Detroit Lions.

Breakdown: The Lions' schedule is manageable. Not great -- Rod Wood, for instance, didn’t get the two West Coast road trips back-to-back like he wanted -- but there are no real killer stretches in there like there was at the start of the 2015 season or even at points last season. The bye comes at a good time -- after consecutive weeks against New England, Dallas and Green Bay -- and should give the Lions a chance to regroup and make a push toward a potential playoff berth in the second half of the season. But going to Green Bay at the end of the year is once again a challenge for the Lions.

Late nights and tough starts early: The Lions are not a huge national draw this season -- only three national games make that clear -- but Detroit will get some attention early on with a Monday Night Football opener against the Jets and then the Matt Patricia-Bill Belichick reunion in Detroit in Week 3 on "Sunday Night Football." Those two teams are among the ones Patricia is most familiar with from his time in the AFC East. It’s a rough stretch early, though, because those two games are part of a stretch that also includes a West Coast trip (San Francisco), a star-filled young offense (Dallas) and the team’s biggest rival (Green Bay).

Ndamukong Suh returns: If there’s a non-Patriots game that might be the most anticipated, it is Dec. 2 against the Los Angeles Rams. Why? Two names: Suh and Aaron Donald. The two could form one of the most potent interior defensive lines in the league. It’ll also give the Lions an idea of what could have been had Detroit drafted Donald over Eric Ebron in the first round of the 2014 draft -- one of the many decisions that eventually led to an entire change in the front office and coaching staff. Watching Suh chase Stafford around -- the guys used to have lockers within 30 feet of each other -- will be one of the most compelling storylines of the year.

Strength of schedule: T-2nd, .535

Lions' Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Monday, Sept. 10, NY Jets, 7:10 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, New England, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Dallas, 1 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, Green Bay, 1 p.m.

  • Week 6: BYE

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Miami, 1 p.m.

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, Seattle, 1 p.m.

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Chicago, 1 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Carolina, 1 p.m.

  • Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, Chicago, 12:30 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, L.A. Rams, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, Minnesota, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.