After a 1-6 start to 2022, the Detroit Lions surged in the second half of the season. The offense led the team to a 9-8 regular season record, and the Lions were in playoff contention until the final week.
Heading into 2023, Detroit is the favorite in the NFC North, a paradigm shift in a division dominated by Green Bay. Can offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and the Lions offense keep up their momentum from last season?
The underlying metrics back up this offense. With QB Jared Goff, the Lions pass offense had a rating of 46.5%, which is a predicted passing success rate against an average defense. This rating is significantly higher than the 42.8% NFL average.
In addition, the analysts that obsess over watching tape love Ben Johnson. Ben Solek of The Ringer called him the next big thing in NFL coaching. However, the hype might be out of control.
Let’s remember how many seasons Johnson has been calling plays as OC: one. Between signal and noise, you must lean towards the latter.
Coaching matters, but players matter more. While Goff was great in 2022, it has only been two years since the Los Angeles Rams traded him away.
In addition, consider the weapons that Goff has. WR Amon Ra St. Brown is an emerging superstar. Last season, he had 2.40 yards per route run compared to the 1.50 NFL average for wide receivers. However, the offense doesn’t have any other proven skill players.
The actual reason for optimism in Detroit might be the defense. After fielding an awful secondary the past two seasons, the Lions brought in some established veterans in cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and Cam Sutton. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson should also help.
On Thursday, Detroit travels to Kansas City, a perennial Super Bowl contender with QB Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid.
My market rankings take win totals and back out a rating for each team. This preseason model tends to be conservative on games with large point spreads like Detroit at Kansas City. The market has been in the range of a touchdown; more on that soon.
However, the model has Kansas City by 8.1 points at home. One factor in this large spread is home field advantage. Based on recent history, I assign 2.1 points for an out of division game. This is more than the 1.3 points for a division game.
A second factor in this spread is Detroit’s schedule. Detroit has a win total of 9.5 wins just like the Jets. However, the Lions play in a weak NFC North and also get all four teams from a bad NFC South.
When my code works out a rating for each NFL team based on market win totals and schedule, it rates Detroit almost two points worse than the Jets.
For the past few weeks, the markets have had Kansas City as a 6.5 point favorite, and my numbers saw value in the Chiefs. Yesterday, TE Travis Kelce hurt his knee in practice and is questionable against Detroit.
Most of the market moved one or two points towards Detroit. If anything, the injury has added value on Chiefs side, as some books have moved more than others. Two points seems like a big move when Kelce hasn’t been ruled out.
There is value in Kansas City -4.5 at DraftKings.
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