I’ve never been a fan of labeling a team’s schedule for the upcoming season as exceptionally difficult or rather easy. Sure we can base how challenging the Lions schedule is off how their opponents performed last season, but we know things can change rapidly from year to year in the NFL.
Still, we can break down specific games on the Lions schedule. Of course Detroit has their expected rigorous games on the road, such as in Green Bay for an early November showdown and a trip to MetLife Stadium for the Giants home opener in week 2.
A game later in the season, week 14 in Tampa Bay, should be getting more buzz as one of the Lions more arduous road trips. Tampa Bay has never been known as a hostile environment for its visitors, but the challenge the Lions will face is more about the Buccaneers roster than the noise the crowd will push through the air.
The Bucs went 9-7 in 2016, just narrowly missing the playoffs. With Jameis Winston entering his third year and an improved group of weapons around him, many expect the Bucs to take the next step and clinch a playoff berth this season.
Bucs GM Jason Licht did everything he could this offseason to add to Jameis Winston’s supporting cast. They signed deep threat DeSean Jackson and drafted Alabama Tight End O.J. Howard, arguably the most complete and NFL-ready Tight End in the draft. Not to mention the Bucs offense already has Mike Evans, a top 4 or 5 receiver in the NFL.
The Lions defense struggled against the pass last season, finishing 19th in pass defense. Their secondary does have talent. Darius Slay is one of the better corners in the league. Glover Quinn was graded as the NFL’s 23rd best Safety according to Pro Football Focus, a respectable ranking. But number 2 CB Nevin Lawson and Strong Safety Tavon Wilson aren’t special players in coverage. They could have difficulty to defend players like Jackson and Howard with Slay most likely paying attention to Mike Evans, assuming all are healthy.
While playing in Tampa could be a pleasant trip away from the cold for the Lions, Florida weather presents a whole different set of challenges, especially for a dome team. It shouldn’t be 95 degrees, but more than likely will be in the 70s or 80s. Cramping up and dehydration are always possible issues players face in Florida. Preventing these problems should be taken serious as the Lions prepare for the Bucs during the week.
Also, Detroit will be in Baltimore the week before traveling down to Tampa. Warm temperatures won’t be something Lions players will be used to prior to playing at Raymond James Stadium.