Detroit Lions' 2021 schedule: Jared Goff era officially underway in Motown

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

The Detroit Lions’ schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what is in store for the Lions:


Sept. 12: vs. San Francisco 49ers

Sept. 20: at Green Bay Packers

Sept. 26: vs. Baltimore Ravens

Oct. 3: at Chicago Bears

Oct. 10: at Minnesota Vikings

Oct. 17: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Oct. 24: at Los Angeles Rams

Oct. 31: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Nov. 7: Bye

Nov. 14: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Nov. 21: at Cleveland Browns

Nov. 25: vs. Chicago Bears

Dec. 5: vs. Minnesota Vikings

Dec. 12: at Denver Broncos

Dec. 19: vs. Arizona Cardinals

Dec. 26: at Atlanta Falcons

Jan. 2: at Seattle Seahawks

Jan. 9: vs. Green Bay Packers

Strength of schedule: T6th, .529

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.

One storyline to watch

Is Goff the quarterback of the future in Detroit or is he just for right now? He has big shoes to fill in Detroit while replacing Matthew Stafford -- the Lions’ greatest quarterback in franchise history. A change of scenery could do him well, though. Also, the front office did him a good deed by not selecting a QB in the draft, so he won’t have to look over his shoulder this season, but there’s still a question mark about who he will be passing the ball to with the Lions receiving corps still unproven. He does have a strong offensive line to protect him, which will make life a lot easier if they live up to expectations. Detroit will face Stafford and the Rams on the road Oct. 24, which will be a huge deal. The only time Stafford and Goff have started against each other was Week 13 in 2018, a contest which Goff and the Rams won 30-16.

What Vegas thinks

The oddsmakers have the Lions win total at five. They need a couple of things to happen to hit the over. First off, Goff has to regain some of his past glory, which helped him lead the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance, and secondly, the Lions’ defense has to be much better than last season, when they were among the worst in the league. Detroit allowed a league-worst 27 rushing touchdowns last season and pressured (sack or duress) opposing quarterbacks on a league-low 21% of dropbacks, per ESPN Stats & Information. That simply can’t happen again.

Bold prediction

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.