The Lions can't use the schedule as an excuse. Despite playing six games against teams that were in the playoffs last season, Detroit has the NFL's easiest schedule. Seven of the first eight games are against clubs that are expected to hover around or finish well below .500: the Falcons, the Buccaneers (twice), the Bears, the Saints, the Bills and the Giants. A soft November home stand (Vikings, Colts, Bears) could propel Detroit into wild-card contention. In a scheduling quirk the Lions, 1-7 away from the Silverdome in '96, have four pairs of back-to-back road games.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
NFL rank: 30
Opponents' 1996 winning percentage: .465
Games against playoff teams: 6