The NFL is finally back! Commissioner Roger Goodell sure knows how to get the fans engaged for the new season, putting the defending Superbowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at home against Dan Campbell and the fan favorite Detroit Lions.
Before getting into this one, let’s take a look at the lines:
This line has remained fairly consistent all summer, despite books flirting with a Lions +7 number that didn’t last long when it was up. The total opened at 53.5 and was pushed up to 54.5 across the board, with a few 55’s out there as well.
Some of this move can be attributed to the absence of Chiefs DT Chris Jones, who could not come to a contract agreement with the team and is now holding out to start the season. Jones has become one of the league’s best interior pass rushers and his absence will certainly impact the Chiefs ability to get to the quarterback.
The play in this one is going to be the under 53.5, which you can find at BetMGM. In 2022 the Chiefs defense was not good to start the year and rounded into average by the end of the season. The Lions, on the contrary, were awful, ranking in the bottom 5 in EPA per play against, opponent success rate, and DVOA.
However, the Lions made some significant overhaul to their secondary which ranked 30th in the league in 2022. They signed Emmanuel Moseley and Cameron Sutton, and additionally added CJ Gardner-Johnson, who will likely play the nickelback position.
We’ll likely continue to see improvement from EDGE rusher Aidan Hutchinson. Rookie LB Jack Campbell should fit in nicely up the middle for this defense.
This being said, I’m not implying that the Lions defense will be making a jump from worst to first in 2023, but I think their offseason moves are not being credited enough with the huge total we’re seeing in this game.
We know the Kansas City Chiefs have a world beating offense behind the league’s best in Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes answered the question of how much the team would be impacted by the loss of Tyreek Hill and showed he could win with just about anyone out there.
Again, despite this, I think the books are making an overaggressive evaluation of the Chiefs offense in Week 1. They will again, rely heavily on Travis Kelce, who’s only put one more year of NFL hardship on his body.
They also lost both starting tackles, Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie. They signed Jacksonville RT Jawaan Taylor to replace the mediocre Wylie, but they are certainly asking a lot of former Bucs tackle Donovan Smith to slide in as the starting left tackle.
The Chiefs will go into 2023 with a receiving core of Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They saw plenty of success in 2022 with a similar cast of characters, but I don’t think it’s a fair assumption to think this offense will simply pick up where it left off.
We know this Lions offense is going to be good, based on how they ended the season in 2023. The Lions provide A+ protection for QB Jared Goff.
The Lions have a good offense that plays up to Goff’s strengths by affording him time in the pocket and Amon-Ra St. Brown should continue to be one of the league’s best Wide Receivers.
I think the offseason addition of David Montgomery and top 15 draft pick of Jahmyr Gibbs is a commitment to improve the run offense, which was only average by EPA in 2022. The best way to beat the Chiefs is to keep Patrick Mahomes and company off the field and I think the Lions will commit to running the ball against a soft run defense and bleed the clock.
53.5 or 53 is too high for this opening night matchup and I’m happy to take the under here as a 1-unit play. (***1u = 2% of bankroll for NFL)
Travis Kelce is now Q for Thursday after hyperextending his knee in practice on Tuesday. The total has moved to 53.5, which is still playable. Kelce is the X factor in this offense and if he’s unhealthy that does not set up well for the Chiefs to move the ball.
This number is still playable. If he’s ruled out, I’d imagine the spread settles around +5.5 after being adjusted from 6.5.
If the game dips to five or below I’d consider laying the points with the Chiefs, as despite Kelce’s impact on this offense, I can’t see a tight end commanding that many points of value to the spread.