Thursday's schedule release unveiled a highly intriguing matchup to kick off the 2023 season.
No, it isn't a Super Bowl LVII rematch; the Eagles-Chiefs showdown arrives in Week 11. Instead, the defending champions will welcome a different NFC upstart -- Detroit -- to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium to start their title defense.
Heading to the home of Chiefs Kingdom seems daunting for most anyone, but Lions head coach Dan Campbell is relishing the opportunity for his Lions.
"First of all, I had told (offensive coordinator) Ben Johnson, (defensive coordinator) Aaron Glenn, I was like, man, the day before it came out, if we could pull off, somehow, some way, Thursday night game, the opener, opening of the season, man, that would be unbelievable," Campbell said during a Friday appearance on Good Morning Football. "Just because you get good work in, you play that game, you get 10 days to recover, game plan, get ready for the next opponent, and I'll be danged if we didn't draw it.
"And not only that, but we get Kansas City, the heavyweight champ. So we're excited. I can't [even] tell you. The staff's excited. I know our players are excited. I think everybody wants an opportunity to play the champ and see where you stack up. I know what (Chiefs coach) Andy Reid's about. We know what that team's about. Highly competitive, they're a champ. Year in and year out, they're gonna be in the running. We're looking forward to it. It's gonna be great."
Heading to Kansas City to face a well-established power makes for about the toughest start possible for a regular season, especially one in which the Lions hope to build upon their surprising finish to 2022. But that's the new reality in Detroit, one of expectations for a club that has long operated without them.
"Certainly we're beginning to get noticed. That's what it means," Campbell said. "Now I'll say this: Here's my first thought, if I'm being totally honest with you, as to why they would give us Kansas City. OK, well you finished the year a certain way, but it also means they're betting on we won't get our ass kicked, alright? You may get beat, but you're not getting your ass kicked. That's what they're saying."
Campbell went on to explain how the Week 1 result would affect perception of his club, adding "you're going to be expected to lose another game if you can beat the Chiefs."
"That's gonna be reality. So then if you slip up and lose a game, well then you're trash again," Campbell said. "But if you don't win the game, then you're not worthy enough to be playing on Thursday night, first game of the year. So we gotta block all that out. It's the next game. It's the one in front of us. We gotta prepare."
Campbell's crew will have the next four months to prepare for their first (and perhaps greatest) test of the 2023 season. Should the Lions maintain their ability to put plenty of points on the board -- Detroit finished fourth in total yards per game and fifth in points per game in 2022 -- we could be in for a thrilling shootout to start the campaign. If not, well, Detroit might not like the reaction on Friday morning.
As Campbell said, the Lions can't worry about such an outcome. All they can do is prepare -- and they'll have a great reason to put their best foot forward throughout camp. There's no time to get comfortable when facing the defending champs.