Lions Trying To Overcome Primetime History In Season Opener Vs. Chiefs

Written By Drew Ellis on September 6, 2023

The Detroit Lions are set to have the biggest spotlight on the franchise in quite some time, if not ever, on Thursday night.

Detroit will take part in the 2023-24 NFL Season Kickoff, facing the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.

Detroit’s primetime history is not vast. Thursday certainly marks the most anticipated season opener in Detroit’s history.

Without a Super Bowl appearance to its credit, Thursday’s game could be its biggest primetime game in franchise history.

Biggest season opener in Lions’ history

Since the NFL started the kickoff game in 2002 on the Thursday of Week 1, the Lions have never been part of the contest.

John Maakaron, publisher for All Lions, sees Detroit being selected for the game as a sign this is a franchise on a new path.

“The Detroit Lions in some way, regardless of the result, have taken a step forward as an organization. For the team to be featured in primetime, where the eyes of the entire nation will be on the coaching staff and the young roster, is a positive step forward for the organization,” said Maakaron. “Playing the Chiefs in Week 1 is the ultimate barometer regarding how the team stacks up against a perennial Super Bowl contender.”

Oddsmakers from Michigan online sportsbooks have seen the Lions as an underdog in this game all offseason. However, an injury to Travis Kelce on Tuesday may keep the Chiefs without their biggest receiving options.

Still, Patrick Mahomes provides a great challenge and the Chiefs have won eight consecutive season openers.

“I think it is a perfect matchup, as the revamped defense will have their first test right out of the gate, trying to match wits with Patrick Mahomes, who is going to go down as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history,” Maakaron said. “While it would be a tremendous boost for the Lions to go out and defeat the Chiefs at Arrowhead, the feat is quite tall, given just how well the Chiefs perform at home and in season openers.”

Primetime not kind to the Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions haven’t been on a stage like Thursday night often.

The NFL decided that the 2023-24 Detroit Lions deserved a chance to prove themselves.

The latest Detroit Lions odds see them as the NFC North favorite and a Super Bowl contender. Though, the Lions still have to convince some of their tormented fans.

Primetime itself hasn’t been kind to the Lions, though they aren’t a regular part of it.

This season, Detroit has four scheduled primetime games. Over the last 10 years, the Detroit has appeared in just 15 primetime games. The Lions are only 6-9 in those 15 games.

Lions’ notable primetime history the last 10 years

Detroit has had some real head-scratching games on primetime this past decade.

However, last year’s season finale may have been the start of the Lions changing the narrative.

October 5, 2015 – The illegal bat in Seattle

In Week 4 of the 2015 season, the Lions made the trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.

It wasn’t an offensive showcase, as Detroit would lose 13-10.

However, the way the Lions lost still stings fans to this day.

In the closing moments, Matthew Stafford hit Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson on a 10-yard pass. As Johnson attempted to get into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor knocked the ball loose.

With the ball bouncing in the end zone, Seattle’s K.J. Wright pushed it through the back of the end zone. Refs ruled it a fumble through the end zone, giving Seattle the ball on a touchback and essentially ending the game.

However, Wright’s action was illegal. NFL rules state he should have been penalized for batting the ball out of the end zone. Detroit would have received the ball at the Seattle 1 with a chance to win.

To no Lions’ fans surprise, no flag was thrown.

Dec. 3, 2015 – Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary

As if the 2015 season wasn’t painful enough, the Lions had another primetime blunder that season.

A week after Thanksgiving, on Thursday Night Football on CBS/NFL Network, the Lions led the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field 20-0 in the second half before Green Bay began an improbable, but expected, comeback. Still, Detroit led 23-21 on the final play.

That comeback ended with the Packers attempting a lateral-fest with no time on the clock, only to have Aaron Rodgers draw a phantom facemask penalty on Devin Taylor of the Lions that replay showed didn’t happen.

The flag was thrown, 15 yards were awarded, and Rodgers got another chance.

Detroit coach Jim Caldwell elected not to defend for a Hail Mary and Rodgers easily completed a 61-yard pass to tight end Richard Rodgers for the 27-23 victory. It was as easily a completed Hail Mary as you will see.

Sept. 10, 2018 – Detroit throttled by Jets in MNF opener

The last time the Lions opened the season on primetime was for the 2018 season.

They hosted the New York Jets at Ford Field for the coaching debut of Matt Patricia on Monday Night Football.

It couldn’t have started any better, as Quandre Diggs intercepted Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.

After that, it was a bloodbath.

The Jets absolutely dominated the Lions behind a rookie quarterback, scoring 31 points in the third quarter to win 48-17.

Detroit had five turnovers and the Lions looked like they quit on Patricia, in a sign of what was to come over the next few seasons under the Bill Belichick disciple.

Jan. 8, 2022 – Lions end Rodgers’ Green Bay career

There’s been a lot of bad for the Lions in primetime.

Last season ended with perhaps the highest point on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

While Detroit had its chances to make the playoffs ended earlier in the day, the Lions still went into Green Bay in Week 18 looking to keep the Packers out of the postseason.

It was an offensive struggle for Detroit in the first half, but the Lions still only trailed 9-6 at halftime.

In the second half, the Detroit managed to grind out a pair of touchdown drives to lead 20-16 late in the fourth.

Lions fans then couldn’t ask for a better ending.

Aaron Rodgers would throw up a deep ball on Green Bay’s final possession, only to be intercepted by Kerby Joseph.

Aaron Rodgers
(Morry Gash / AP Photo)

Detroit then executed on offense and ran out the clock, never giving Rodgers the ball back. That was done through a hook-and-ladder and a fourth down pass completion from Jared Goff to DJ Chark.

Detroit finished 9-8 on the season after a 1-6 start and were playing as well as anyone in the NFL to end the year.

It’s a big reason why the buzz for Detroit coming into the 2023 season is where it is.

Now, it’s up to the Lions to turn the buzz into reality.

Photo by Morry Gash / AP Photo
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is currently the Lead Writer of He was the former Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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