The NFL and the Lions are making contingency plans for the 2020 season, but they left few clues what those look like with the release of the schedule Thursday. The Lions open the season with back-to-back NFC North games, have a mid-October bye week and no cluster of non-conference games that easily could be eliminated if the league needs to shorten its season due to the coronavirus pandemic at any point this fall. Also absent from the schedule: Prime time games. The Lions don’t have a single Thursday-, Sunday- or Monday-night affair on their schedule after going 3-12-1 last season and losing starting quarterback Matthew Stafford for most of November and December to a back injury. The NFL has said for weeks it’s planning to play a traditional season , even as COVID-19 restrictions have shuttered most other professional sports leagues across the globe. That means having fans in the stands and playing games in regular stadiums, with the season starting on time in early September. “The Detroit Lions are following the NFL’s lead in preparing to play a full 2020 season in front of fans,” the team said in a statement earlier this week when the Free Press inquired about contingency plans for the fall. “Given the evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19, contingencies are needed and will be in place. We are evaluating all facets of the game day experience, and will do what is required to maintain a safe and healthy environment at Ford Field where our fans can feel comfortable.” A spokesperson for the Wayne County health department said officials will defer to state and league guidelines to determine under what conditions games can be played at Ford Field this fall. The stadium is scheduled to host a Monster Jam truck rally July 26, and the Lions said they will share new policies and protocols for stadium events this summer. According to ESPN, every team shares the same bye week as its Week 2 opponent, so early-season games can be shifted if necessary. If things go as planned, the Lions will open the preseason Aug. 13-17 at the New England Patriots – the teams could have joint practices for the second straight year – and the regular season Sept. 13 against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. The Lions play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 2, the first time they’ve opened with back-to-back NFC North games since 2005, and close the season at home Jan. 3 against the Minnesota Vikings. With the International Series cancelled this fall, the Lions won’t play the Jacksonville Jaguars in London , as expected, and have just one nationally televised game, on Thanksgiving against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. The last time the Lions played the Texans on Thanksgiving, in 2012, Justin Forsett scored a disputed 81-yard touchdown that was allowed to stand after Jim Schwartz improperly challenged the call on the field, and Houston won, 34-31, in overtime. Two late-season games, a Week 15 trip to the Tennessee Titans and a Week 16 home game against Tom Brady and the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are scheduled for Saturday or Sunday and could be played in a national broadcast window. The Lions open with four of their first six games on the road and have two sets of back-to-back road trips in that span. In Week 3, after their trip to Lambeau Field, the Lions visit Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals. They host Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in Week 4, have a bye week Oct. 11, then close the month with consecutive road games against the Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons. While the early bye means the Lions play on 12 consecutive weeks to close the year, they play of three of their final four games at home and have just one scheduled start (a 4:25 p.m. kick at Arizona) outside of the early TV window. A few more notes and observations about the Lions’ schedule: • The Lions play the entire AFC East in the preseason. After their to-be-determined date with the Patriots, the Lions host the New York Jets in an ESPN game Aug. 20, then close the preseason at the Miami Dolphins and home against the Buffalo Bills. Lions coach Matt Patricia, of course, spent his entire NFL career before coming to Detroit coaching in the division with the Patriots. • For the second straight year, the Lions play on the road the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Last year, the Lions lost at Washington, 19-16, then lost to the Bears on Thanksgiving four days later. This year, they visit the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 22. • The Lions have three road games on the second half of their schedule – at Carolina, Chicago and Tennessee – and only their Dec. 6 game at Soldier Field would be considered a cold-weather affair. The Bears are 5-5 in their last 10 December or January home games. • If fans aren't allowed in stadiums, or games are played in front of less-than capacity crowds early in the season, it could be a good thing that the back half of the Lions' schedule is heavier with home games. Sure, the Lions will lose most of their home-field advantage for their opener against the Bears and their Week 4 game against the Saints, but this is a year it's probably better to have more home games late. Also, there's a better chance fans can fill Ford Field to see Brady and the Bucs in Week 16 than had that game been in September. • The Lions have seven games against five 2019 playoff teams (including two each against division rivals the Vikings and Packers) and play five of this year’s top-10 draft picks, including Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa in the preseason. Washington’s Chase Young (No. 2), Carolina’s Derrick Brown (No. 7), Arizona’s Isaiah Simmons (No. 8) and Jacksonville’s C.J. Henderson (No. 9) are on the regular season schedule. Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter .