The schedule makers have done the Detroit Lions no favors as the team tries to rebound from its dismal 4-12 campaign a year ago.
As ESPN points out, based on last year's win-loss records, the Lions have the league's second hardest 2013 schedule.
Of course, a big reason for this difficult schedule is that the Lions were the only team in the NFC North that claimed fewer than 10 wins a season ago, and Detroit did not do well in the division. The Lions lost all six of their division games.
While the Lions will make winning division games a huge priority, this division is still going to be brutal, and even getting to .500 in those six games will be a challenge. That makes winning games outside of the division all the more important.
We don't yet know when these games will take place, but we do know the opponents. We'll take a look at those opponents and rank the toughest ones from outside the division, but first check out when the dates for these games will become available.
When: Thursday, April 18 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL.com
No. 3: Arizona Cardinals
At first glance, the Cardinals were not going to make this list. I was leaning toward putting away games against the Redskins or Steelers above the Cardinals.
However, I then recalled the 38-10 beatdown the Cardinals laid on the Lions last year in Week 15. In that game, the Cardinals held Matthew Stafford to 246 yards passing, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Cardinals feature a solid pass defense—they were fifth in the league last year. They also figure to have a more competent offense this year with Carson Palmer at the helm.
No. 2: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are not a good matchup for the Lions. At the heart of this is the Bengals' ability to stuff an opposing passing attack.
They ranked sixth in yards allowed per pass last season and third in sack percentage (via Team Rankings).
I actually considered ranking the Bengals as No. 1 on this list, but ultimately their pedestrian offense relegated them to the second spot.
No. 1: Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens will look radically different than they did last year. Losing defensive mainstays and likely future Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will do that.
However, this team did a wonderful job of filling the void of players who departed. NFL.com's Adam Schein does a nice job of breaking down the Ravens' offseason moves.
The Lions will get the defending Super Bowls champs at home, which will help, but this is still a tough matchup.
The Ravens have a solid pass defense that was 10th in yards allowed per pass last year (via Team Rankings), and that pass defense should be stout again this year.
Meanwhile, the Ravens' multifaceted offensive attack will be a load for the Lions to handle.
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