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Detroit Lions take step back out of playoffs

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DETROIT – The Detroit Lions kickoff the season in San Diego against the Chargers on Sunday, and yes, the expectations are high.

After all, the Lions were 11-5 last season in Coach Jim Caldwell's first season at the helm. The Lions also made it to the playoffs before losing at Dallas.

Hence, many fans expect them to be just as good, if not better. Some believe the Lions will finally make the next step, put together back-to-back double digit win seasons for the first time in the franchise's history, and also win a playoff game for the first time since 1957.

Many, many moons have come and gone and Lions fans have also hoped -- regardless of the roster and the coach or management -- that one of these years things would align and the Lions would shock the NFL.

That year may be coming. But it's not 2015.

There are a few reasons this won't finally be the Lions' year. And it starts with the opposition.

The Schedule: The Lions have an incredibly tough schedule, especially to start the season.

They could easily start the season 1-3 or 0-4. And before you spit out your coffee, take a look.

Three of their first four are on the road, starting against the tough Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Then, it's off to Minnesota. Many have the Vikings as the up-and-coming team. They made some moves. Better yet, they got RB Adrian Peterson back this season. It will only help young QB Teddy Bridgewater. Some football writers have them their darling pick for the playoffs.

After a home game against Peyton Manning and the Denver. Broncos -- hardly a layup, even at Ford Field -- the Lions got to Seattle, where almost no one has been able to win there in a few years.

And let's face it. The Lions don't play well on the road.

There are also two dates against Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers. The New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees is another tough road opponent.

The Defense: The Lions' defense, no matter how much you wish and hope, won't be as good as it was a year ago when it ranked second-best in the NFL and first in run defense.

Many have tried to pooh-pooh the losing of Ndamukong Suh, who bolted via free agency to the Miami Dolphins.

His absence in the middle will be missed without question. And don't forget that Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley are also gone from that defensive line.

Worse, Haloti Ngata, who the Lions got in a trade with Baltimore to replace Suh and Caraun Reid, has missed most of camp and preseason with injury.

Another star of defense, LB DeAndre Levy has been down for a few weeks and right now ruled out indefinitely with a hip injury.

Yes, the defense is a question mark at this point.

The Quarterback: Matthew Stafford had a subpar last season, despite the Lions winning 11 games.

Caldwell put the reigns on him and got Stafford's interceptions to come down, but so did his touchdown numbers. Stafford ranked a woeful 22nd in QB rankings in 2014. He had 22 TDs and 12 picks.

You get the feeling that they will give Stafford more freedom this season in hopes of big production from him. With the defense down, the Lions will need more offense in '15.

Interestingly, the Lions have made the playoffs twice in the Stafford Era. Both times, the defense played really well. In the rest of the Stafford years, the Lions have had a losing seasons.

Worse, Stafford will have to finally get a win on the road against a team over .500. Including playoffs in his career, Stafford is 0-19 in those games. It's a stat that haunts Stafford and the Lions.

Indeed, this is a big year for Stafford.

Most want to see if the former No.1 overall pick from 2009 will finally come of age or continue to be just a middle-of-the-road QB with potential, Parker's Prediction: Lions won't be able to overcome that tough schedule and go 7-9 with no playoffs.

As far as the Super Bowl, many are picking a rematch -- Seattle and New England. It's just too easy, lazy.

The Green Bay Packers should have made it a year ago instead of Seattle. The Pack will get there this year and take on the Indianapolis Colts. ARodg finally gets his second Super Bowl ring.