One of the most difficult things to do in sports is blossom from the sneaky underdog to consistent favorite. The NFL, in particular, can be quite cruel to those trendy picks whose lofty potential fills bandwagons everywhere. Oftentimes, those passengers are abruptly thrown off with only a hollow “Come back next year” for their troubles. Will the Detroit Lions carry their many new believers all the way to the NFC Playoffs? Or will they lose a tire right away?

The unveiling of the 2023 NFL schedule allows us to officially start pondering those questions. There is a lot for fans to be excited about going into September.

Being entrusted to multiple prime-time games is wonderful for this deprived fan base, but the team will still have to back it up on the field. Here are our game-by-game predictions for the Lions now that the 2023 NFL schedule has been released.

Week 1 at Kansas City Chiefs

The franchise was mocked when “kneecap-biter” Dan Campbell was introduced as the new head coach a couple years ago. Now, the team earned the prestigious season opener slot against reigning the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. This is a huge opportunity for the Lions to immediately prove that the hype is real, but that does not necessarily require winning this grueling road game. Expect a back-and-forth showdown until Patrick Mahomes surges late. Detroit makes him earn it, though. Loss

Week 2 vs. Seattle Seahawks

Last year, the Lions and Seahawks put on an offensive exhibition but made defensive coordinators across the league shudder in terror. They have each addressed their biggest weakness since, though, so the flaws won’t be so easily detectable in this meeting. The result will also be different. Amon-Ra St. Brown has a big day and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs does damage as a receiver as he is known to do, per Nick Penticoff. Most importantly, though, Aidan Hutchinson rattles Geno Smith throughout the afternoon. Win

Week 3 vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are not necessarily expected to be the breakout force that Detroit is in 2023, but they had a busy offseason that should be reflected on the field. The question mark is obviously Desmond Ridder, and that should be the undoing in this game. The new additions in the secondary will quickly pay dividends and multiple turnovers will give quarterback Jared Goff favorable field position. Win

Week 4 at Green Bay Packers

Thursday Night Football games are always unpredictable, and Lambeau Field has not been kind to this team in recent memory (excluding last year’s regular season finale). Is a new trend ready to form? The Packers have a solid defense, but I don’t think Jordan Love will be completely comfortable in the pocket yet. The duo of David Montgomery and Gibbs dictates the pace of the game on the ground and allows kicker Michael Badgley to nail a couple of crucial field goals to decide this divisional clash. Win

Week 5 vs. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers gave up a lot for No. 1 pick Bryce Young, but they also did a decent job of providing him with a safety net in veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen and a solid running back in Miles Sanders. All of that won’t be enough to shield him from Hutchinson, however. This is exactly the type of home game the Lions need to win decisively if they are to take that next step. Win

Week 6 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Don’t look now but the streaking Lions are 4-1 with a prime opportunity to earn their fifth victory in Tampa Bay. There is bound to be a trap game or two in this team’s way, though. The Buccaneers can still be dangerous on both sides of the ball on a given week. Unfortunately for Detroit, this is that week. Baker Mayfield plays hero ball again and leads a successful fourth-quarter drive to halt Campbell’s crew. Loss

Week 7 at Baltimore Ravens

The missed opportunity in Tampa will sting a lot more after the Lions lock up with the Ravens. The clear game plan will be to force Lamar Jackson to beat them in the air rather than the ground. Assuming Baltimore is healthy on offense, its revamped arsenal could give even the solid Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Mosley fits in big-play situations. Loss

Week 8 vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Continuing a challenging stretch, the Lions host a new-look Raiders squad that could be more efficient on offense and should be more competent on defense. Goff faces an arduous task in surviving Maxx Crosby and rookie Tyree Wilson. Jameson Williams will be back from his six-game suspension for gambling by now, though, and will be ready to take his frustrations out on the gridiron. The offensive line affords Goff just enough time to enter the bye week 5-3. Win

Week 9: Bye

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Week 10 at Los Angeles Chargers

This should be fun. I see a crazy finish coming that will dominate headlines Monday morning. The Chargers are another team with a lot to prove this year. They should move forward and put the brutal end to last postseason behind them, but a vintage late-game collapse will slip in here at SoFi Stadium. Gibbs has a career-defining moment and validates the franchise’s draft-night surprise. Win

Week 11 vs. Chicago Bears

The NFC North is not going to be easy. The Bears have gone all in on building the offense around Justin Fields. Their depth and balance will push Detroit’s defense to its limit. But the Lions will bite back. Montgomery and Gibbs exploit Chicago’s porous run defense, with the former having a triumphant revenge game. Win

Week 12 vs. Packers

Although it has a different backfield, Detroit was one of the 10 most successful teams on the ground last season. The Packers were among the most vulnerable against the run. Rosters have changed, but I expect the trend to continue at least on this edition of TNF, the third Thursday matchup the Lions will play. A new tradition forms with back-to-back sweeps of Green Bay. Win

Week 13 at New Orleans Saints

Don’t let this game get too close at the end because Derek Carr is an underrated fourth quarter signal-caller. The Saints are typically very fundamentally sound as long they have a reliable quarterback to hold it all together. But Detroit is too talented to lose to multiple teams from the NFC South. A lower-scoring game that may not be the prettiest to watch results in a five-game Lions winning streak. Win

Week 14 at Chicago Bears

They get a little sloppy in this one defensively. Justin Fields sprays the football all over the field and finishes the Lions off with his legs. Bears salvage the season series. Loss

Week 15 vs. Denver Broncos

Dan Campbell is a crafty coach, but he will be out-dueled by Sean Payton in this home matchup against the Broncos. Russell Wilson will have a better second year in Denver and ride high into this one. A gritty, hard-hitting defense stifles Goff and the running backs. Loss

Week 16 at Minnesota Vikings

Another tough test for the Lions defense. Jordan Addison is set-up for success with the Vikings and will have a solid showing versus their divisional rival. Justin Jefferson will still get his, but Addison will slip through and bury Detroit with a couple of back-breaking receptions. Kirk Cousins tries to play himself into another contract and succeeds. Loss

Week 17 Lions at Cowboys

The erratic Lions continue their slide as Micah Parsons and company set the tone after forcing a couple of early turnovers. Dak Prescott falters a bit late and allows Detroit to come storming right back into the game. Tony Pollard explodes in this Saturday night showdown and leaves the Lions with no time to mount a game-tying drive. Loss

Week 18 vs. Minnesota Vikings

A must-win game for the Lions that I predict will be for the NFC North title. Cousins gets a little tight as the defense makes key adjustments from last time. Jefferson shines, but does not have enough support to overcome St. Brown and the returning Marvin Jones. The veteran wideout fittingly makes the play that launches the Lions back into the postseason.

Final Record: 10-7 with an NFC North Divisional Crown