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O'HARA: Lions face top quarterbacks early 

The Detroit Lions will climb the ladder in a hurry – from near the bottom to the top rung -- in the quarterbacks they face in their first five games based on columnist Mike Sando's fifth annual quarterback tier ratings for ESPN.

Josh McCown, the projected starter for the visiting New York Jets in the regular-season opener at Ford Field, is rated No. 30 in Tier 4.

After that, the Lions face decidedly higher-rated quarterbacks in their next four games before the bye, as follows:

Week 2, at San Francisco: Jimmy Garoppolo, Tier 3, No. 13 overall. Garoppolo had a 5-0 record as a starter with the 49ers last year after being traded by the Patriots, where he spent his first three full seasons as a backup to Tom Brady. Garoppolo won his only two starts with the Patriots, both in 2016 when Brady sat out the first four games because of a suspension by the NFL.

Week 3, home vs. New England: On Sunday night TV, it's Tom Brady -- Tier 1, tied with Aaron Rodgers for No 1 overall. Brady is considered by many as the greatest quarterback of all time, with an unprecedented five Super Bowl wins.

Week 4, at Dallas: Dak Prescott, Tier 3, tied with two-time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning for No. 17 overall. Prescott had won-loss records of 13-3 and 9-7 in his first two seasons as a starter, but he dropped from 23 TD passes and three interceptions as a rookie in 2016 to a 22-13 ratio in 2017.

Week 5, home vs. Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers, Tier 1, tied with Brady for No. 1 overall and listed ahead of Brady. Rodgers is considered by many to be the league's most proficient quarterback, with mobility to go with his deadly accuracy. The Lions have a rematch with Rodgers and the Packer at Lambeau Field in the regular-season finale on Dec. 30.

Matthew Stafford, set to be the Lions' opening-day starter for the 10th straight season, is rated No. 7 in Tier 2. Stafford was No. 8 last year.

Sando divides the quarterbacks into four tiers, and his ratings are based on input from 50 executives around the NFL.

Tier 1 has four quarterbacks – Rodgers, Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger -- whose "teams win because of them," Sando writes.

Tier 2 has 10 quarterbacks – ranked 5-14. All can "carry his team sometimes, but not as consistently," Sando writes.

Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson are listed ahead of Stafford at No. 5 and No. 6.

Stafford is the only quarterback in the top seven who has not been to at least one Super Bowl.

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