Matthew Stafford might be the best young quarterback in the National Football League.
Calvin Johnson could be the most exciting wide receiver -- and player -- in the NFL, too.
The pair have teamed up to make the formerly-lowly Detroit Lions one of the most thrilling, fan-friendly NFL teams to watch. You don't have to be a Lions follower to appreciate Stafford's corner-endzone jumpballs to Johnson to realize that, either. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will be receiving a lot of attention this year, but Stafford and his Lions will should get plenty of airtime as well.
They gained a following based on their almost-weekly highlights on sports news programs. Johnson's "MegaTron" cult-like fanbase is nationwide and growing. Stafford has a rocket of an arm and all signs point to him being a Pro Bowl-caliber signal-caller in years to come.
You don't even have to be all that familiar with the Lions to realize that they were given a well-deserved nod of respect from the league Monday in the form of a noteworthy 2012 NFL schedule.
Detroit has four primetime games on its upcoming docket. The maximum allowed is five, which fellow NFC-North teams Green Bay and Chicago have in 2012. But that's not bad for the Lions, who finished 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade in 2011.
The Lions are hosted Mon., Oct. 22, by the Chicago Bears at Solider Field. That Week 7 matchup could prove crucial in the early battle for the NFC-North title. But wait, there's more to look forward to.
Once upon a time, the San Francisco 49ers were the class of the NFL. The franchise returned to its winning ways in 2011, reaching the NFC title game against the eventual-Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Detroit gets the Niners in "The City" at 8:20 p.m. Sun., Sept. 16 on NBC.
That will be a must-see game, considering the way the two teams' previous meeting ended -- you know, the whole "Handshakegate" situation between Niners coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
The biggest disappointment, is, of course, the Thanksgiving Game against the Houston Texans. No Dallas Cowboys? No Green Bay Packers? Even the Minnesota Vikings? Nope. Essentially, this year's Turkey Day festivities will be a bust.
Could be worse. But the Texans are an up-and-coming team. Turkey Day '12 could prove to showcase two of the league's under-the-radar franchises (that's the optimistic view). But I'd like to see a traditional holiday opponent.
We still have months to mull over the gauntlet that lies ahead for Detroit. We still have ample time to see which teams will pose the biggest threat and make moves during the offseason. But for now, let's just look at the schedule and think of what could be.
Week 1: Sun., Sept. 9 vs. St. Louis Rams, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sun., Sept. 16 at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Week 3: Sun., Sept. 23 at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sun., Sept. 30 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sun., Oct. 14 at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Mon., Oct. 22 at Chicago Bears, 8:20 p.m.
Week 8: Sun., Oct 28 vs. Seattle Seahawks, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sun., Nov. 4 at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sun., Nov. 11 at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sun., Nov. 18 vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sun., Thurs., Nov. 22 vs. Houston Texans, 12:30 p.m.
Week 13: Sun., Dec. 2 vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sun., Dec. 9 at Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m.
Week 15: Sun., Dec. 16 at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sat., Dec. 22 vs. Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 p.m.
Week 17: Sun., Dec. 30 vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Adam Biggers has followed the National Football League for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Lions and NFC-North. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.