NFL (1 Pick)
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8:20pm est: Lions +4.5 (3 Units)
The Detroit Lions offense was very good a season ago and they're only getting better as OC Ben Johnson is back for his 2nd year. It starts up front with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Per PFF they rank 5th heading into this season. With Halapoulivaati Vaitai back at Guard after being injured last year and the continued growth of Penei Sewell, they have a chance to be the very best. It's a huge deal in this game as the Chiefs are without Chris Jones.
Jones is one of the best defensive players in the game. Opponents' yards per rush when he is on the field (4.3) compared to when he is off (5.8). The Chiefs pressure rate drops from 36% to 32% when he's off the field as well. That goes from ranking 7th to 21st for perspective. There's really nothing comparable to the disruption an interior DL can have and the Lions already had an OL capable of handling him. They're also without Free agent acquisition DE Charles Omenihu due to a suspension.
QB Jared Goff returns 3 of his 4 leading WR's from last year and the Lions went offense in the draft. They selected RB Jahmyr Gibbs 12th overall. He's an explosive back with elite receiving ability. Ben Johnson's lined him up all over throughout camp. They also drafted TE Sam LaPorta out of Iowa 34th overall. He's the most pro ready TE who excels both as a Receiver and a Blocker. The Front Office also signed former CHI Bears bell cow David Montgomery to split the load with Gibbs.
The Lions ranked 3rd in Total Yards and 5th in points per game in 2022. That was also Ben Johnson's first year as an OC. They have more talent this season and Jared Goff should feel much more comfortable in his system. It's never easy going into Arrowhead but there's a lot of continuity where it matters. Goff's played in plenty of big games before. The Lions offense should have success.
Defensively the Lions were flat out poor in 2022 but they started to show signs of improvement in their last 7 games of the season. From November 24th on; they kept the Bills offense to 26, Jaguars to 14, Vikings to 23, Jets to 17, Panthers lit them up for 34, Bears to 10, and knocked Aaron Rodgers and the Packers out of the Playoffs holding them to 16.
The reason for optimism starts with the Defensive Line and primarily at Edge. Last years #1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson had a stellar Rookie season. The DROY runner up had 9.5 sacks last season. Then the Lions snagged an absolute gem from Jackson State by the name of James Houston with the 217th pick of the draft. He only played in 7 games last year, racking up 8 sacks.
The Chiefs do have a strong offensive line but they do have two new offensive tackles. Donovan Smith comes over to play LT after spending his first 8 seasons with Tampa Bay. Smith's coming off his worst season as a Pro but dealt with injuries. KC is hoping the 30 year old rebounds with better health. Jawan Taylor is a good Right Tackle but they're still working with two new players at two of the most important positions in football.
The Lions return their leading tackler from last season and they addressed their secondary issues in Free Agency. Signing last year's Co-Leader in interceptions; Safety CJ Gardner-Johnson. They signed CBs Cameron Sutton from PIT and Emmanuel Mosley from SF. They also re-signed their most productive DB from last season, slot CB Will Harris. Massive upgrades for a Lions defense that really has nowhere to go but up.
Offensively for the Chiefs there's the Kelce question mark. He hyper extended his knee in practice on Tuesday and although there's talk of him suiting up, it's unlikely. Not only would that turnaround be unprecedented but it's also week 1. The Staff has yet to clear him. The KC Chiefs are perennial Super Bowl contenders and he's a large part of it. At the very least he won't be 100% if he does somehow manage to play. They also lost JuJu at WR to Free Agency. He had 78 catches for 933 yards in 2022 and didn't replace him.
As long as Mahomes is under center and Andy Reid is calling plays, the Chiefs offense will be fine. They just shouldn't be as prolific. Expect a heavy dose of running the football with the Chiefs playing to their strength, interior OL. KC also lost OC Eric Bienemy, while he never called plays he was good offensive mind that was pivotal to much of the Chiefs success in recent years.