Detroit Lions (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
I had both the Lions and the Vikings as 9-win playoff teams this season during my season previews and both teams lost on the road week 1. However, the Lions’ 33-28 loss in San Diego was not nearly as bad as the Vikings’ 20-3 loss in San Francisco. Detroit’s game was much closer and they also faced a much better opponent. The Vikings got dominated in rate of moving the chains by a 49er team that could still finish the season with 5 wins, after an 8-win season in 2014 and a rough off-season full of losses.
That’s one reason I’m way more concerned with the Vikings than the Lions. The second is that the Lions were the much better team last season so I wasn’t predicting that they’d take a leap like I did with the Vikings. I think that makes them a safer bet. The third reason is injury related. Part of the reason why the Lions’ loss in San Diego last week wasn’t surprising (in addition to the fact that they were playing a quality team on the road) is because the Lions were missing starting right guard Larry Warford, starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, and top defensive player DeAndre Levy with injury.
The Lions are unfortunately still likely to be without Levy in this one, but they get Waddle and Warford back, which will help this offense. The Vikings, meanwhile, lost two talented offensive lineman, center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt, for an extended period of time before the season even began and it showed as their offense couldn’t move the ball against the 49ers. They could easily continue to have trouble here against Detroit, even without Levy.
The Lions are also in a better spot, in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 117-79 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 96-55 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 197-200 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.25 points per game, as opposed to 278-392 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.10 points per game. I’m not putting money on Detroit unless this line moves up to 3 or, by some miracle, Levy (doubtful with a hip injury) plays, but the Lions should be the right side here.
Detroit Lions 23 Minnesota Vikings 20 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: Detroit +2