With Sunday’s 34-11 loss at home to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Detroit Lions fell to 0-6 under head coach Dan Campbell. The Jacksonville Jaguars avoided that dubious record by snapping their 20-game losing streak and beating the Miami Dolphins earlier that day, leaving the Lions as the NFL’s lone winless team.
When will the Lions win? It’s going to require a better effort and execution than the team showed against Cincinnati to beat anyone, but there are some potential “Ws” on the remaining 11-game schedule.
Going game-by-game, here are the Lions chances at picking up a win against each of Detroit’s remaining foes.
Week 7 – at Los Angeles Rams
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The Lions head to Los Angeles in the Jared Goff revenge game. Alas, it also happens to be the first time the Lions face off against longtime franchise QB, Matthew Stafford.
The Rams are 5-1 and playing solid football. Moreover, they’re 15.5-point favorites in the opening line. It’s one of the biggest underdog lines in Lions franchise history, and the line isn’t set there by accident.
Winning chances: Lower than low
Week 8 – Philadelphia Eagles
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The Eagles are currently 2-4 and face a tough late-kickoff trip to Las Vegas in Week 7 before heading to Detroit.
Philadelphia is already proving to be trade-deadline sellers, shipping TE Zach Ertz off to Arizona. They’re still capable of being a tough foe, proving they nearly had enough to knock off the Buccaneers last week. But the Eagles are also young, undertalented and dealing with a rookie coach still learning how to manage a full team and the responsibilities of in-game decisions.
Winning chances: As good as the Lions will get the rest of the season
Week 10 – at Pittsburgh Steelers
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Detroit hits the road out of the bye week, heading to Pittsburgh to play the up-and-down Steelers.
Mike Tomlin’s Steelers are currently 3-3 but have won two in a row. Their offense has sputtered, ranking near the bottom in both yards per carry (3.7 – 28th) and yards per pass (6.2 – 27th). The Steelers defense has been much better, creating key takeaways and thriving in the red zone at keeping the opponent out of the end zone.
Winning chances: Better than fans might reflexively think but not looking good unless the bad Steelers of Weeks 2-4 show up
Week 11 – at Cleveland Browns
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The Browns are 3-3 but currently facing a massive rash of major injuries to key players. Nearly every Browns player most fans outside of Cleveland can name, from Baker Mayfield (separated shoulder) to Nick Chubb (calf), Myles Garrett (knee/ankle) to Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder), both starting offensive tackles and four of the top five cornerbacks, appears on the injury list this week and most will not play in Week 7.
That incarnation of the Browns isn’t going to beat many teams. Alas, the Lions don’t head to Cleveland for another month. The Browns get a desperately-needed bye week before then, too.
Winning chances: If the game was this week, the Lions would have a great chance to win. They stand little chance of beating a healthier Browns team, unfortunately.
Week 12 – Chicago Bears (Thanksgiving)
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The first repeat matchup of the year comes on Thanksgiving, when the Lions host the Bears. Chicago captured the first meeting, 24-14, back in Week 4 at Soldier Field. The Bears are now 3-3 with the 30th-ranked scoring offense that is dead last in yards per game and yards per play.
Detroit was close to making that game a better outcome, but coming away with zero points on three possessions inside the Chicago 10-yard line to open the game ruined any chance. A better effort from the Lions offense could pay off here, and the nation will be watching.
Winning chances: Decent. Better than decent if the offense plays well.
Week 13 – Minnesota Vikings
(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
The fresh wounds of Minnesota’s last-second, 19-17 win in Week 5 still looms in the Detroit psyche. The Lions took the Vikings to the limit in Minnesota but came up just short.
The opportunity is there for the Lions to flip that script. Minnesota travels to this game from a late-afternoon trip to San Francisco the week before, and primetime dates against the Steelers and Bears in the following weeks. It’s a classic (potential) trap game for Mike Zimmer’s Vikings.
Winning chances: Unlikely but not out of the question
Week 14 – at Denver Broncos
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After starting 3-0 and allowing just 26 points in the first three weeks, the wheels have come off for Denver. They’ve dropped three in a row since, including Sunday’s ugly effort where they bungled away the day they honored former head coach Mike Shanahan into the team’s ring of honor.
The Broncos host this game after a trip to Kansas City, which follows a date against the impressive Chargers. Denver’s postseason aspirations could be effectively dead by this point, but any defense with Von Miller is dangerous. The Broncos are a top-5 defense against the run and in overall scoring and yards, and they currently rank first in opposing completion percentage.
Winning chances: Not good
Week 15 – Arizona Cardinals
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Just as the Lions are the last remaining winless team, the Cardinals are the only unbeaten team left in the NFL after six weeks.
It’s unlikely that Kyler Murray, Deandre Hopkins, Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt and friends are still unbeaten when the Cardinals come to Detroit the week before Christmas. That doesn’t take away from just how dynamic Arizona is on both sides of the ball.
Winning chances: A snowball in the desert in August
Week 16 – at Atlanta Falcons
The Lions head to Atlanta the day after Christmas to face a Falcons team that is 2-4 but only has close-shave wins over the one-win New York teams.
The Falcons are vulnerable. The Atlanta defense gives up big plays and doesn’t create takeaways well. Their rushing offense is anemic, meaning that even if they get out to an early lead, the Falcons are unlikely to be able to simply run out the clock. However, Matt Ryan remains dangerous with one of the NFL’s top passing attacks, and the Falcons protect him well, too.
Winning chances: Promising but far from probable
Week 17 – at Seattle Seahawks
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Seattle is one of the NFL’s early-season disappointments at just 2-4 after six weeks. Their 32nd-ranked defense has been wretched; the Seahawks allow over 50 yards per game more than the Lions do and it’s not getting better with Seattle’s existing personnel, either.
Without Russell Wilson, who is currently out with a nasty finger injury, the Seahawks stand little chance of rising out of the NFC West basement. Alas, Wilson is expected back by this time. Now if the team is already out of it and chooses to keep Wilson on a backburner, the Lions chances go up exponentially. Hard to see a competitor like coach Pete Carroll pulling that move, however.
Winning chances: Surprisingly okay, especially if Wilson isn’t playing, but still not one to count upon
Week 18 – Green Bay Packers
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
The Packers have ripped off five wins in a row since their bafflingly awful opener against the Saints. Aaron Rodgers and the visitors from Green Bay could very well be playing for playoff seeding and a potential bye in this one, and that’s very bad news for the Lions.
Now if the Packers have already clinched playoff seeding and decide to rest Rodgers, Davante Adams and some key defenders…
Winning chances: Absurdly low unless the Packers sit a lot of starters