• New pressure: For the first time in decades, Dan Campbell has the Lions in a different plane than they are used to, which brings different pressure to a team that has long been a part of the NFL's doldrums.
• Chiefs represent what the Lions want to be: The Lions now have to embrace a different reality to show that they are good enough to justify the favorite tag and win in spite of it. The Chiefs represent where they want to go — a team that has undergone that transition a few years ago and has been able to sustain excellence in those circumstances.
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The Lions aren’t expected to be the best team in football this year, but they are now expected to be a playoff team after coming so close to that last season. The Lions are favorites to win their division heading into a season for the first time since 1982, and the last time they actually won it was 1993, well before it was even called the NFC North.
For the first time in decades, Dan Campbell has the Lions in a different plane than they are used to, which brings different pressure.
It’s easy to surprise teams when nobody sees you coming. There’s a comfort in being underdogs and a benefit to being overlooked that manifests in more than one way. All of that goes away when you are the favorite.
The Lions now have to embrace a different reality to show that they are good enough to justify the favorite tag and win in spite of it.
The Chiefs represent where they want to go — a team that has undergone that transition a few years ago and has been able to sustain excellence in those circumstances.
Kansas City should be a better team than Detroit this season, but the Lions may have a rare opportunity to catch them cold to open the season without some of their best players. Chris Jones is still in the midst of a contract dispute and is holding out while Travis Kelce hyperextended his knee during the week and is battling a bone bruise that may keep him off the field. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and receiver Kadarius Toney have both been dealing with knee injuries and are considered day-to-day as we head toward the regular season.
Those players represent arguably four of the best five players on the team, and even if three of them could play, they aren’t likely to be 100 percent healthy.
Patrick Mahomes is the most difficult puzzle in the NFL for defensive coaches to solve, but the Lions have a lot of reinforcements relative to last year on defense. The secondary will likely feature three new starters (including rookie Brian Branch at nickel) and the depth across the board has greatly improved.
On the other side of the ball, the Lions will hope to keep the same interior on the offensive line rather than the revolving door they dealt with last season. On paper, this is a top-five offensive line in the league, giving Jared Goff and the rest of the offense a good platform to work from.
Detroit has the personnel and coaching to succeed on both sides of the ball and is seen as a playoff contender for a reason, and while they will have to develop a new mindset and embrace the favorites label during this season, this is one game they will remain underdogs with a chance to shock people.
The Lions are good again, and this game is a chance for them to show everybody just how good.