Photo DraftKings
The Detroit Lions will kick off their 2021 regular season at home in Ford Field playing against a Niners’ team. Photo DraftKings

Expectations for the 2021 Detroit Lions should be tethered to the Principles of a Rebuild: play hard, stay competitive and develop the young talent. Anything beyond that — wins, surprise playoff contention, etc. — would be a bonus in Year 1 of the Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell eras. “I think it takes the right pieces to win,” new QB Jared Goff said, “but it can happen in one offseason.”

Maybe he’s right, and the Lions become a feel-good story this season. Holmes, though, has kept one eye fixed beyond ’21 with every move he’s made this offseason. It’ll be a struggle to keep pace right away, especially facing the type of schedule Detroit has in front of it.

Detroit Lions in 2021 NFL: Full schedule

WEEK

DATE

OPPONENT

TV

TIME (ET)

1

Sunday, September 12

vs. San Francisco 49ers

FOX

1:00 p.m.

2

Monday, September 20

at Green Bay Packers

ESPN

8:15 p.m.

3

Sunday, September 26

vs. Baltimore Ravens

CBS

1:00 p.m.

4

Sunday, October 3

at Chicago Bears

FOX

1:00 p.m.

5

Sunday, October 10

at Minnesota Vikings

FOX

1:00 p.m.

6

Sunday, October 17

vs. Cincinnati Bengals

FOX

1:00 p.m.

7

Sunday, October 24

at Los Angeles Rams

FOX

4:05 p.m.

8

Sunday, October 31

vs. Philadelphia Eagles

FOX

1:00 p.m.

9

BYE WEEK

10

Sunday, November 14

at Pittsburgh Steelers

FOX

1:00 p.m.

11

Sunday, November 21

at Cleveland Browns

FOX

1:00 p.m.

12

Thursday, November 25

vs. Chicago Bears

FOX

12:30 p.m.

13

Sunday, December 5

vs. Minnesota Vikings

CBS

1:00 p.m.

14

Sunday, December 12

at Denver Broncos

FOX

4:05 p.m.

15

Sunday, December 19

vs. Arizona Cardinals

FOX

1:00 p.m.

16

Sunday, December 26

at Atlanta Falcons

FOX

1:00 p.m.

17

Sunday, January 2

at Seattle Seahawks

FOX

4:25 p.m.

18

Sunday, January 9

vs. Green Bay Packers

FOX

1:00 p.m.

"Flexible scheduling" will be used in Weeks 11-18. Additionally, in Weeks 5-10, flexible scheduling may be used in no more than two weeks. In Weeks 5-17, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time.

NFL 2021 Detroit Lions: Full Schedule, Key Games, Predictions
Photo Detroits Lion

For Week 18, two Saturday games and the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to January 9. The schedule does not list Saturday games or a Sunday night game in Week 18, but games with playoff implications will be moved to those time slots. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives "surprise" teams a chance to play their way into primetime.

Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday or Monday nights.

Detroit Lions will play on Thanksgiving this season

The Detroit Lions will host the Chicago Bears for an early game on Thanksgiving this season, making it the third time in four years that the Bears meet Detroit on turkey day, NBC reported. The Dallas Cowboys will host the Las Vegas Raiders and the Buffalo Bills will play the New Orleans Saints for the other 2021 Thanksgiving Day games.

Detroit Lions in 2021 NFL: Key games

NFL 2021 Detroit Lions: Full Schedule, Key Games, Predictions
Photo Detroit Lions

Here are the three games Detroit Lions fans should circle on their calendars this fall:

Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams, Week 7, Oct. 24, 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

Revenge! Revenge! Revenge! As the Lions build a virtual "Rams West," there are numerous new faces to Detroit who made their bones in L.A. From general manager Brad Holmes to defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant to defensive lineman Michael Brockers to quarterback Jared Goff. Brockers was a give-away by the Rams after he didn't want to restructure his contract. Goff famously unloaded with two first-round picks as Sean McVay washed his hands of the QB. Both players should be plenty motivated to prove the L.A. brass wrong. Lions players will face off against their former leader, Matthew Stafford. No harsh words from the Detroit organization were spoken of Stafford, even as he asked to be traded, for having shouldered the franchise for years. Still, there are sure to be former teammates who can't wait to get their shot at No. 9. Given all the ties between the clubs, emotions are sure to be high on both sidelines.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, Week 2, Sept. 20, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The Lions' lone prime-time game of the season comes early. It's also Dan Campbell's first division game as a head coach. Facing Green Bay at Lambeau has been a bugaboo for most Lions coaches in the past. How Campbell's crew handles that situation will write the first chapter in how the season will unfold for the rebuilding Lions. Regardless of how the Aaron Rodgers situation unfolds in Green Bay, the Packers will remain a playoff competitor. The talk in the offseason in Detroit has been about building a tough, aggressive team. Campbell will get his first measuring stick to see where he's at in that process against a division foe under the lights at Lambeau.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, Week 12, Thanksgiving, 12:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

The Lions passed on Justin Fields with the No. 7 overall pick, making offensive tackle Penei Sewell the selection. The decision allowed Fields to fall into range for the Bears to leap up and snag their future signal-caller. Will that decision come back to bite the Lions in the rear? If Sewell is a Hall of Fame-type player, perhaps not. If he falls short while Fields becomes a difference-maker for a rival, the two will be compared to no end. Won't that be a fun argument to have at Thanksgiving dinner? Even if Matt Nagy goes against the grain and Andy Dalton starts the season under center, there should be little doubt the rookie is on the field by Turkey Day. Fields owns the talent to expand Nagy's offense, which already exploited the Lions' defensive deficits with now-outcast Mitchell Trubisky.

** READ MORE: 2021 NFL Schedule Release: Date, Time, How to Watch and Live Stream

Detroit Lions in 2021 NFL: Ticket information

The Lions are planning to host fans at Ford Field this season and have continued to enhance health and safety measures in accordance with NFL, federal, state and local guidelines.

Detroit Lions season tickets are available now with significant savings for as low as $38 dollars per month with the 12-month payment plan and can be purchased at detroitlions.com/tickets or by calling 313.262.2222.

Single-game tickets for 2021 Detroit Lions regular season games will go on sale in July. To be alerted when single-game tickets are available sign-up at detroitlions.com/tickets.

Additionally, single-game and full season suites for 2021 are available now and can be explored at detroitlionssuites.com.

Biggest takeaway

Nobody in their right mind is expecting the new Lions regime, which includes general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell to come in and deliver a Super Bowl this season. That certainly won't happen in 2021, since the Lions are tied for the sixth-most difficult schedule in the NFL. Detroit decided to retool it’s roster through the draft by building up front and trusting that their strong pieces like QB Jared Goff, RB D’Andre Swift, Pro Bowl TE T.J. Hockenson and others can take the next step to help this team put together a string of victories, but this could be a long season as Detroit rebuilds.

Detroit Lions in 2021 NFL: Predictions

Could running back D'Andre Swift finally give the Detroit Lions their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013? Photo Getty
Could running back D'Andre Swift finally give the Detroit Lions their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013? Photo Getty

According to bleacherreport, Lions fans should like the direction that general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell are taking this team. However, they just shouldn't get their hopes up quite yet.

Campbell brings an intensity and identity the team has desperately needed. In his introductory press conference, he referenced biting a kneecap off. Their moves in the offseason show it isn't just coach-speak when Campbell talks about wanting to bring physicality and aggression to the franchise. No kneecap should feel safe.

Trading Matt Stafford was a necessary evil to rebuild. The quarterback brought back a strong return in draft capital (two first-round picks and a third) while giving them a quarterback reclamation project in Jared Goff. The former Rams starter has proven he can win if given a great offensive line and weapons to work with.

The Lions did their part in working toward the first part of that. Drafting Penei Sewell to a team that already has Taylor Decker gives the Lions a great tackle duo for the foreseeable future.

The weaponry needs work, though. They lost their top two targets in Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay. Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams are far from upgrades and Amon-Ra St. Brown won't strike fear into secondaries as a rookie.

The defensive front has some potential with Michael Brockers joining Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers. But the rest of the defense is either young or underwhelming. That will have to be addressed next offseason.

Swift will be the one to break the curse and rush for 1,000 yards this season. If he’s able to stay healthy, he should get more touches behind a strong offensive line with the NFL expanding the regular season to 17 games. The Lions haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013, the longest active drought in the NFL. Detroit's run game thrived during Barry Sanders' time with the team, as it led the NFL in 1,000-yard rushing seasons and 100-yard rushing games by individual players from 1989-98. Since 1998, they've been arguably the worst running team in the league, but Swift could change that.

Prediction: 4-13

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