Washington Football Team (2-6) at Detroit Lions (3-5)
The Lions have lost back-to-back games by multiple touchdowns, pushing them down to 27th in point differential at -43, but they still continue to be overrated, favored by 4.5 points at home over the Washington Football Team. The Lions have been even worse than their point differential suggests, as they’ve faced a below average schedule and barely won two of their games.
They beat the Falcons by 1 in a game in which the Falcons would have won if they had just taken a knee late and kicked a field goal. They beat the Cardinals by 3 in a game in which the Lions won the turnover battle by 3 but lost the first down rate battle by 8.96%. Their other win and only convincing victory came against a Jaguars team that is one of the worst in the league. They nearly beat the Bears earlier this year, but they still lost the first down rate battle in that game to a mediocre Bears team. Overall, the Lions rank just 28th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -2.62%.
Washington, meanwhile, is just 2-6, but they actually rank 9th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential. Both of their wins have come by double digits, while two of their losses came by a combined 4 points against the Giants in games in which Washington won the first down rate battle by 4.47% combined, but lost the turnover battle by 6, missed a makeable field goal, and allowed a return touchdown, three things that are highly unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. Even having played 4 games against the NFC East, Washington has still played an above average schedule and is legitimately a couple plays away from being 4-4 against that schedule.
That being said, there is certainly a big reason to believe Washington won’t be the 9th best team in schedule adjusted first down rate going forward, which is that they’ve been carried by a defense that ranks first in first down rate allowed over expected at -4.97%, but rank just 29th offensively in first down rate over expected at -3.47%. In addition to their defense outperforming it’s talent level, especially with players like Landon Collins and Matt Ioannidis out with injury, defensive play also tends to be much more inconsistent than offensive play, so it’s very tough for any team to continue playing at the level Washington has played at defensively.
The Lions may rank significantly behind Washington defensively, ranking 31st in first down rate allowed over expected, but their offense ranks 13th in first down rate over expected, so if both defenses regress to average somewhat, the Lions would seem to be in decent shape. However, I was encouraged by how Alex Smith played in relief of an injured Kyle Allen last week and, while it’s hard to say how good Smith can be after his horrific injury two years ago, he was a solid starting quarterback before the injury and if he can even resemble his old form he should be able to be an upgrade under center for this team compared to the likes of Kyle Allen and Dwayne Haskins, which would be a boost to this offense and give them more life going forward.
The Lions, meanwhile, are missing arguably their best player on either side of the ball, without top wide receiver Kenny Galloday and top edge defender Trey Flowers. They may be able to sneak out this victory at home over Washington, but there’s no good reason why they should be laying 4.5 points, especially since they won’t have the benefit of any fans in the stands at this home game. I like the WFT a good amount this week, to at least keep this close, but possibly pull the upset as well.
Detroit Lions 20 Washington Football Team 19
Pick against the spread: Washington +4.5