2020 Team Betting Previews: Lions

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2020 Team Betting Previews: Lions

The Lions got off to a promising 2-0-1 start last season before they squandered two late leads in the final minute to the Chiefs and the Packers in back-to-back games. Detroit’s season went downhill after those two heartbreaking losses and it spiraled out of control after Matthew Stafford broke his back in Week 9. The Lions lost 12 of their final 13 games last season, including their final eight games with Jeff Driskel and David Blough at quarterback to miss the playoffs (-425) and to finish with a 3-12-1 record. They weren’t much better against the spread, posting a 6-10 ATS mark, which included a six-game ATS losing streak in Weeks 7-12.

The Lions played in a ridiculous 12 games decided by one score last season, and they had a miserable time pulling out wins in those close contests, finishing with a 3-8-1 mark. The Lions played in just one game decided by three scores or more — a Week 15 loss to the Bucs — despite playing with Driskel and Blough for the last half of 2019. Detroit finished 10-6 toward over totals last season with their offense scoring 21.3 points per game (18th-most) and their defense allowing 26.4 PPG (7th-most). The Lions were averaging nearly four more points per game with Stafford at the helm and their 25.1 PPG with their franchise QB would’ve been the eighth-most PPG over the entire season.

Detroit’s 2020 win total stayed exactly the same at six and a half victories despite a disastrous three-win campaign last season. The Lions fell below their 2019 win total of six and a half victories with their Week 14 loss to the Vikings. Detroit has +260 odds to make the playoffs this season for the first time since 2016 and for the fourth time in Stafford’s 12 seasons. Entering the season, I have the Lions power rated as the 25th-best team in the NFL (+6600 to win Super Bowl LV), as the 13th-best team in the NFC (+3000 to win the conference), and as the fourth-best team in the NFC North (+600).

2020 Schedule

WeekOpponent (spread if available)Time
1Chicago Bears (-1.5)1
2@Green Bay Packers (+6)1
3@Arizona Cardinals4:25
4New Orleans Saints1
5BYEBYE
6@Jacksonville Jaguars1
7@Atlanta Falcons1
8Indianapolis Colts (+1)1
9@Minnesota Vikings1
10Washington Redskins1
11@Carolina Panthers1
12Houston Texans (+2.5)12:30 (Thurs)
13@Chicago Bears1
14Green Bay Packers1
15@Tennessee TitansTBA
16Tampa Bay BuccaneersTBA
17Minnesota Vikings1

Key Off-season Moves

Additions

Jeff Okudah (CB)

D’Andre Swift (RB)

Halapoulivaati Vaitai (OT)

Jamie Collins (LB)

Desmond Trufant (CB)

Danny Shelton (DT)

Jonah Jackson (OG)

Chase Daniel (QB)

Duron Harmon (S)

Reggie Ragland (LB)

Geronimo Allison (WR)

Departures

Darius Slay (CB, Phi)

A’Shawn Robinson (DT, LAR)

Damon Harrison (DT, FA)

Devon Kennard (LB, Ari)

Graham Glasgow (OG, Den)

Rick Wagner (OT, GB)

Rashaan Melvin (CB, Jax)

{{Jeff Driskel|QB|Den} (QB, Den)

J.D. McKissic (RB, Was)

2020 Season Odds

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)6.5 (-143/+118)
NFC North+600
Playoffs (Y/N)+260/-335
NFC Championship+3000
Super Bowl+6600

Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total

The Lions can only improve from last season’s disastrous campaign. They finished with a 3-8-1 record in one-score games and they lost their franchise QB Matthew Stafford for the final eight games. HC Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn have to be feeling some heat heading into 2020, especially since Patricia owns a 9-22-1 record (.297) through two seasons. The front office made some aggressive moves this off-season to immediately upgrade this roster by bringing in OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, DT Danny Shelton, LB Jamie Collins, and CB Desmond Trufant. They also drafted players like CB Jeff Okudah, RB D’Andre Swift, and OG Jonah Jackson who could all play significant roles from Day One.

Detroit is desperate to put a better product on the field this season while the teams at the top of the division, the Packers and the Vikings, made lateral moves or they even took steps backward. After a quiet free agency, the Packers drafted a backup QB (Jordan Love) in the first round before drafting yet another RB (A.J. Dillon) and an H-back (Josiah Deguera) on Day Two. Meanwhile, the Vikings traded away star WR Stefon Diggs and they let their starting CBs Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, and Mackensie Alexander walk in free agency. The Lions have some room for some upward mobility this season with the top of the division weakening from 2019.

The Lions played much more aggressively than I anticipated last season with Darrell Bevell taking over the play-calling. Bevell’s Seattle offenses leaned heavily on their rushing attacks, but the Lions came out aggressive last season with Matthew Stafford chucking it downfield quite a bit to his stud perimeter WRs Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. Stafford led the league in completed air yards (8.3) and in average intended air yards (10.7) last season. A second-year leap from T.J. Hockenson and the addition of excellent receiving back Swift will only make this passing attack even harder to defend. Bevell should continue to play to the strengths of his offense by letting Stafford air it out plenty once again.

Detroit has a much easier schedule compared to last season, and it ranks as the eighth-easiest overall based on this season’s win totals (per Sharp Football). The Lions will need to make hay in Weeks 6-13 if they have playoff or division-winning aspirations with six of their eight games coming against teams lined below .500 entering the season (@Jax, @Atl, Ind, @Min, Was, @Car, Hou, @Chi).

Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total

The Lions made some moves to improve their defense this off-season, but they still have major concerns at the two most important spots: at cornerback and with their pass rush. Detroit traded away one of the best CBs in the league in Darius Slay to the Eagles this off-season, which left a massive hole in their already weak secondary. The Lions drafted top CB prospect Jeff Okudah with the #3 overall pick and they took a shot on Desmond Trufant in free agency after the Falcons released him early in the new NFL year. The Lions defense will be better than anticipated if Okudah can have early success and if Trufant can give Detroit above-average play across from the rookie.

Okudah and Trufant could use a little help from Detroit’s pass rush, which was non-existent at times last season. The Lions inked Trey Flowers to a five-year deal with $56 million guaranteed during the 2019 off-season, but his addition didn’t help their defense as they finished ahead of only the Dolphins in total sacks (28) and in sack rate (4.38%). The Lions drafted Julian Okwara in the third round to help their pass rush, but it could be difficult for him to improve this stagnant pass rush as a rookie. The Lions hired Matt Patricia because he was one of the best young defensive minds in the game, but his defenses could be what undoes his Detroit tenure unless he can turn things around in Year Three.

The Lions schedule is cut into three distinct sections with a tough opening stretch in Weeks 1-4 (Chi, @GB, @Ari, NO) followed by an easy stretch in Weeks 6-13 before their schedule turns difficult again in Weeks 14-17 (GB, @Ten, TB, Min). The Lions start the season with four road games in their first six games, which include back-to-back road sets in Weeks 2-3 (@GB, @Ari) and in Weeks 6-7 (@Jax, @Atl). Detroit also shares the earliest bye week this year with Green Bay in Week 5, which is less than ideal considering teams prefer later bye weeks.

Notable Player Props

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Matthew Stafford: passing yards (4100.5), passing TDs (26.5), MVP (+4000)

Fantasy Points Projections: passing yards (4165), passing TDs (31)

  • Best-case Scenario: Stafford continues to air out deep balls to one of the best downfield tandems in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones and this year he stays healthy for 16 games.

  • Worst-case Scenario: OC Darrell Bevell steers the offense more to the ground game after drafting D’Andre Swift in the second round and a pair of offensive guards in the third and fourth rounds this spring.

D’Andre Swift: rushing yards (725.5),

Fantasy Points Projections: rushing yards (815)

  • Best-case Scenario: Matt Patricia goes against his past instincts and the Lions use Swift as a three-down back after clearly showing he’s the best option in this backfield.
  • Worst-case Scenario: Patricia continues to use a backfield committee with Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough vulturing touches despite the Lions using early draft capital on Swift.

Kenny Golladay: receiving yards (1100.5), most receiving yards (+2000)

Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1155), receptions (73)

  • Best-case Scenario: Golladay continues to rank among the league leaders in air yards and end-zone targets with Matthew Stafford sticking to the script and attacking downfield and targeting him in the red zone.
  • Worst-case Scenario: Golladay’s target share and air yards shrink with Marvin Jones playing a full season and with youngsters T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift taking big roles in the passing game.

Marvin Jones: receiving yards (875.5)

Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (860), receptions (65)

  • Best-case Scenario: Jones puts together his fourth straight top-30 fantasy performance playing with Matthew Stafford, and Jones continues to average 1000+ yards on a per-16-game basis.
  • Worst-case Scenario: Jones, in his first full season in his 30s, continues to struggle to stay healthy after missing 17.2% of his games over his first four seasons with the Lions.

Best Bets and Leans

The Lions finished with the third-worst record in the league last season, but they very easily could’ve been playoff contenders with a little better luck in close games and with a little better luck when it came to Matthew Stafford’s health. They had both the Chiefs and the Packers on the ropes early last season after starting with a 2-0-1 record, but they lost late leads to both teams with a combined 20 seconds left in those games. They’ll have the chance to right the ship this season and to contend in the NFC North, which features four solid squads but no elite teams.

HC Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn are both under contract through 2022 but their seats are starting to get a little warm heading into 2020. Quinn and Patricia made some win-now moves this off-season, and they were able to improve the overall talent level of this roster during free agency and the draft despite losing a player like CB Darius Slay. With Stafford playing like a top-five passer before his injury last season, I’m leaning toward the Lions over six and a half wins this season.

I really think this division is completely up for grabs and that a 9-7 record could be all that it takes to win the division. The Lions are likely to have much better fortune in one-score games after going 3-8-1 last season, especially with Stafford back in the mix after he missed the last half of 2019. The Lions aren’t as far behind the rest of the division as their +800 price to win the division would suggest so I’m leaning toward the Lions winning the NFC North at long-shot odds. The Lions to win the NFC North is the best deeper long-shot bet to win their division on the betting board, but it’s just a lean for me because I’m not sold that Patricia should be an NFL head coach.

Best Bets: None.

Leans: Lion over six and a half wins (-138, FoxBet)…Lions to win the NFC North (+800, FoxBet)

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.

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