Well, one piece of the Detroit Lions 2014 schedule has been leaked, sort of. We already knew who the Lions opponents were destined to be, just not when. Thanks to a story on the Buffalo Bills website, we do know that the Lions are playing their upstate New York opponents for their traditional Thanksgiving game.
If you look at last year’s results, this game doesn’t bring much excitement to the table for the one national spotlight game that the Lions are guaranteed each year. In reality, this game has too many story lines intertwined with it for the NFL not to schedule it.
This offseason both teams lost their owners. William Clay Ford and Ralph Wilson were stalwarts of the NFL, in both the building of the league and also providing consistent leadership from an ownership standpoint. Amongst other owners in the NFL, both Ford and Wilson were universally respected, regardless of the results their teams netted; these men were seen as two of the good guys of the league. Combine that with the fact that Wilson called Detroit home and actually only invested in the upstart AFL league and Buffalo after being a minority owner of the Lions and went after his dream to be the actual majority owner of a professional football franchise.
The Bills also hired former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz to be their defensive coordinator this year. The Lions fired Schwartz after a complete collapse that saw Detroit leading the division at 6-3, yet miss the playoffs in stunning fashion with a final record of 7-9. Schwartz was originally hired as the Lions coach after a successful stint as the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator and will likely be successful in Buffalo at his old job, especially with the addition of former New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.
The Bills and Lions flirted with success last year. It ultimately rejected them, but there were signs of improvement on both sides. This Thanksgiving game should give fans of both teams an opportunity to show appreciation for the deceased owners of their franchises one last time and I’m sure the Lions and the NFL will handle the tributes appropriately.