Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) at Detroit Lions (0-5)
The Bengals took the Packers to overtime last week, but even though the Packers were missing several key players due to injury and even though Aaron Rodgers typically struggles on the road, relative to how well he plays at home, the Bengals were still lucky to even take that game to overtime, as the Packers won the first down rate battle and yards per play battle by 5.12% and 1.75 respectively. The Packers had 12 drives, excluding end of half drives, and got into scoring range on 9 of them, but had to settle for 7 field goals and missed 3 of them, keeping the game close, despite the Packers dominating in key statistical metrics.
Even with the Packers included, the Bengals have still faced one of the easiest schedules in the league this season, the 4th easiest by DVOA, and, while they are 3-2, they rank just 27th in first down rate and 11th in yards per play allowed, which are the most predictive offensive and defensive metrics respectively. On top of that, just one of their three wins have come by more than a field goal and they have lost to the Bears, while nearly losing at home to the Jaguars. My roster rankings have them as more middling than the statistics show, but either way, they are no better than an average team.
The Lions, meanwhile, are winless, but they’ve come close in some of their games, losing on game winning field goals twice and failing at the goal line in a one score loss in another game. Their defense is atrocious, ranking 31st in yards per play allowed, but their offense has ranked 6th in first down rate, despite an above average schedule (12th in DVOA) and they could easily pull the upset here at home in one of their easiest games of the season thus far.
Even if they don’t win outright, we are getting 3.5 points of cushion with the Lions and about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. The Bengals could also be flat in between a long overtime loss to a tough opponent and a much tougher game against the Ravens on deck, which could lead to them overlooking an 0-5 Lions team that has been more competitive than their record. This isn’t a huge play, but my calculated line is Cincinnati -1, so between the line value and the good spot, there is enough here for the Lions to be worth betting.
Cincinnati Bengals 24 Detroit Lions 23
Pick against the spread: Detroit +3.5