The Lions have a new coach — and a new quarterback — heading into the 2021 season.
Will that produce new results? That’s the question for first-year coach Dan Campbell, who takes over for the Lions with new quarterback Jared Goff, who was acquired in a trade for long-time Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford. It’s a makeover for a franchise that finished last in the NFC North each of the past three seasons.
Detroit will try to break that streak against a last-place schedule that includes the NFC West and AFC North — two of the toughest divisions in the NFL. Campbell brings a new outlook, and he is the Lions’ seventh coach since 2000.
How does that schedule look now? Here is a complete breakdown of the Lions’ 2021 schedule, including dates and start times for all 17 games and our early prediction.
Detroit Lions schedule 2021
The Lions open the season Sept. 12 against San Francisco at 1 p.m. on FOX. Campbell will make his Ford Field debut in that game.
Detroit has nine games against teams that made the NFL playoffs last season, and that includes five games outside the NFC North.
The Lions struggled at home under Matt Patricia the past three seasons. Detroit had a 6-18 record at Ford Field, which was the worst home mark in the NFL in that stretch. Three Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks will visit Detroit this year in Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow.
|1||Sept. 12||vs. 49ers||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|2||Sept. 19||at Packers||8:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|3||Sept. 26||vs. Ravens||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|4||Oct. 3||at Bears||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|5||Oct. 10||at Vikings||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|6||Oct. 17||vs. Bengals||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|7||Oct. 24||at L.A. Rams||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|8||Oct. 31||vs. Eagles||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|10||Nov. 14||at Steelers||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|11||Nov. 21||at Browns||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|12||Nov. 25||vs. Bears||12:30 p.m. ET||FOX|
|13||Dec. 5||vs. Vikings||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|14||Dec. 12||vs. Broncos||4:05 p.m. ET||FOX|
|15||Dec. 19||vs. Cardinals||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|16||Dec. 26||at Falcons||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|17||Jan. 2||at Seahawks||4:25 p.m. ET||FOX|
|18||Jan. 9||vs. Packers||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
Lions strength of schedule
Detroit’s opponents had a .529 winning percentage last season, and that means the Lions have the sixth most difficult schedule by record. The Bears, Packers and Vikings rank 3-5, respectively, in the same category, and it’s just a tough crossover with the NFC West and AFC North.
San Francisco had the worst record in the NFC West last season at 6-10, but the 49ers could be an NFC championship contender with a healthy roster. Arizona is a .500 team, too. The AFC North had three playoff teams last year, and Cincinnati should be better with Burrow back under center.
There are a lot of tough tests on the schedule.
Toughest tests: The away schedule is brutal outside the division. The Rams, Seahawks, Steelers and Browns had a combined record of 26-8 at home (including playoffs) last season, and all four have playoff-caliber teams.
The trip to Los Angeles in Week 7 should be interesting considering the Stafford-Goff matchup, but it is one in which the Rams will be favored. The 17th game will be on the road at Denver in Week 14, where the Broncos were 3-5 last season but still should be improved on both sides.
Biggest breaks: Atlanta and Denver had 2-6 records at home last year, so those are opportunities for Detroit to get some wins on the road. The home schedule is more friendly outside the division. The Eagles and Bengals were a combined 2-13-1 on the road last season, and those are opportunities for Detroit to steal a few confidence-building wins outside the division.
Bottom line: The Patricia era never took flight, and part of the issue was a 3-15 record against the other teams in the NFC North. Detroit swept Green Bay in 2018, but the Packers have won the past four meetings. The Lions are 1-5 against the Bears the past three seasons, and they have a seven-game losing streak to the Vikings.
The bad news? Detroit faces all three division rivals on the road within the first five weeks.
What kind of team will Campbell have by November? The Lions are 5-23 in games played after Nov. 1 the past three seasons, and the season is generally lost before the annual Thanksgiving game against the Bears. Detroit has lost the past four games on that stage, too.
It’s another rebuild for the Lions, and it’s going to take time. Measured success against those NFC North rivals would be a good start, and the division could see a significant makeover if Aaron Rodgers does leave Green Bay.
Record prediction: 5-12