Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions: 2022 Week 13 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) at Detroit Lions (4-7)

This is another one of my lowest confidence picks of the week. My calculated line has the Lions just slightly favored to win this game, but it also has the Jaguars covering this 1-point spread, which is how close this one is for me. Making it even tougher, there also aren’t any situational trends affecting either side. I’m taking the Jaguars for pick ‘em purposes because we’re technically getting some line value with them, but this 1-point spread doesn’t give us much room to work with and the most likely outcome of this game might be a push.

Detroit Lions 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 33

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +1

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (7-3) at Detroit Lions (4-6)

A week ago on the early line, the Bills were 10-point favorites for this game in Detroit, but the line has since moved to 9.5. That’s not a huge line movement, but 10 is a key number, with about 6% of games decided by exactly 10 points, and the line movement happened despite the fact that the Lions will be missing top cornerback Jeff Okudah and their starting guards Evan Brown and Jonah Jackson this week. The primary reason for the line movement is the Lions pulled the upset over the Giants last week, but that is not as impressive as it might seem, as the Giants were an overrated team that was nowhere near as good as their 7-2 record, with all seven of their wins coming by one score and five coming against teams that are among the worst in the league (4-7 or worse).

The Bills, meanwhile, almost always blow out their opponents, with an average margin of victory of 20.4 points across 19 wins over the past two seasons (19-10), and they are favored by 12.5 points on my calculated line against a mediocre Lions team that is missing several key players due to injury. There isn’t enough here for the Bills to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, as this seems likely to be the Bills’ 18th double digit win over the past two seasons.

Buffalo Bills 31 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -9.5

Confidence: Low

Detroit Lions at New York Giants: 2022 Week 11 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-6) at New York Giants (7-2)

This line moved from favoring the Giants by four points on the early line last week to just three points this week, a significant swing given that 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly three points. Normally I like to go against a significant week-to-week line movement like that as it tends to be an overreaction, but, in this case, I don’t think the line has moved far enough and was too high to begin with. The Giants beat the Texans last week, but the Texans are arguably the worst team in the league and the Giants needed to win the turnover margin by two to win the game by eight and they lost the first down rate battle and yards per play battle by 8.12% and 0.97 respectively, which are much more predictive than turnovers. 

The Giants are 7-2 overall, but all of their wins have come by eight points or fewer, with all but two coming against sub-.500 teams, and several of their wins have required comebacks, with the Giants ranking just 27th in time leading per game, despite their record. They could beat the Lions and move to 8-2, but I expect the Lions to keep this game close and, with this line at a full field goal, the Lions seem like the better side, at least for pick ‘em purposes. There isn’t enough here for the Giants to be worth betting, but, with my calculated line at NY Giants -1.5, I expect this to be a close game and one the Lions could end up winning.

New York Giants 24 Detroit Lions 23

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3

Confidence: Low

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 10 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (2-6) at Chicago Bears (3-6)

A week ago on the early line, the Bears were favored by 1.5 points at home in this matchup with the Lions, but now they are favored by 3, a significant swing, given that 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. I normally like to go against significant week-to-week line movements as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and I think that is the case here. The line movement is likely driven by the Bears’ near upset of the Dolphins last week, but the Lions played a close game with the Dolphins the week prior and then pulled an upset victory over the Packers last week, so it doesn’t really make sense that this line would have moved significantly.

These two teams are pretty similar, below average teams with much better offenses than defenses, but the Lions are a better version of the Bears, with a significant edge in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, ranking two points above average, 9th best in the NFL, with the 23rd ranked Bears are 1.5 points below average. My roster rankings also support that, giving the Lions a 1.5-point edge on offense. The Lions rank dead last in defensive efficiency, so they are worse on that side of the ball, but the Bears rank 28th and have been horrendous defensively since trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, so the gap isn’t much between these two defenses, with the Lions having the clear edge on offense. 

Despite the Lions being the better team, the Bears are favored by a full field goal at home, suggesting they are the better team. My calculated line is even and the Lions could easily end up pulling the upset, even if my numbers still have the Bears as slight favorites to win straight up. There isn’t quite enough here for the Lions to be worth betting, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Chicago Bears 28 Detroit Lions 27

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (3-5) at Detroit Lions (1-6)

The Packers have started 3-5, a year after going 13-4, but their drop off isn’t all that surprising. Despite their record last season, the Packers finished just 10th in point differential and 11th in overall efficiency, despite an MVP season from Aaron Rodgers who, as good as he is, was no guarantee to play at quite the same level in 2022, now in his age 39 season. Add in the loss of by far their top wide receiver Davante Adams this off-season and some regression was to be expected from them, especially on offense.

In many ways, things have gone how you might expect, given the circumstances. The Packers’ defense has remained middling, ranking 17th in defensive efficiency in 2021 and 16th in 2022, but their offense has fallen off significantly, falling from 4th in offensive efficiency a year ago to 15th this season, while their horrendous special teams that ranked dead last efficiency a year ago has only been slightly better this year, ranking 31st. All in all, the Packers rank just 20th in overall efficiency when adjusted for schedule, about 1.5 points below average, and my roster rankings only have them slightly higher, about a half point above average. Despite the big name at quarterback, this team isn’t much more than a slightly above average team any way you look at it.

The Packers get to face the one-win Lions this week, but this isn’t as easy of a matchup as it seems, as the Lions are just 4.5 points behind them in my roster rankings and 2.5 points behind in schedule adjusted efficiency, with four of the Lions’ six losses coming by four points or fewer. Making matters worse, the Packers are on the road and they just haven’t had the same success away from Lambeau in Aaron Rodgers career, in large part due to Aaron Rodgers having a 10 point drop in QB rating on the road in his career, well above average. My calculated line has the Packers favored by one and, while they should still be favored to win this game, they could easily lose and, even if they don’t, about 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer, so we’re getting good line value with the Lions at +3.5. They’re bettable at that number.

Green Bay Packers 31 Detroit Lions 30

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at Detroit Lions: 2022 Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Detroit Lions (1-5)

This is one of the toughest calls of the week, as both teams are probably a little overrated. The Lions began the season as the highest scoring team in the league through 4 games, averaging 35.0 points per game, before being held to six points in their past two games by the Patriots and Cowboys. The common thinking seems to be that the Lions’ dominant offensive start was somewhat legitimate and that they just happened to run into dominant defenses the past two weeks, but I don’t think that’s correct. Even with the last two games taken into account, the Lions still rank 9th in the NFL in points per game at 24.3, but, in terms of first down rate, which is much more predictive than points, the Lions rank just 14th.

That’s still pretty solid, but it’s a big concern for a Lions team that has one of the worst defenses in the league and relies on their offense’s ability to keep up in shootouts to win games. A year after ranking 30th in defensive efficiency, about 4 points below average, the Lions have somehow been even worse this season, ranking dead last, about 5.5 points below average, especially struggling since losing two of their better players, safety Tracy Walker and edge defender Charles Harris, due to injuries a few weeks back. This week, they will be without starting cornerback Mike Hughes and starting safety Deshon Elliott as well. Because of their defensive struggles, the Lions rank just 26th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about 4.5 points below average.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are 4-1 in games started by Tua Tagovailoa, but they aren’t blowing teams out, with their only win by more than a touchdown coming against the Patriots, in a game in which they won the turnover margin by 3, but lost the first down rate battle by 0.85% and only won the yards per play battle by 0.18, a concern because yards and first downs are significantly more predictive week-to-week than turnovers. The Dolphins still rank 14th in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, even with the injuries they’ve had at quarterback, but my roster rankings suggest this line should favor the Dolphins by 3 more than it should favor the by 3.5, a big difference considering how many games are decided by 3 points exactly.

In total, about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, with 1 in 4 games decided by a field goal or less. In large part because of this, 3.5-point underdogs cover more often than any other line, doing so at a 53.0% rate, actually enough to be profitable in the long run. A line of 3.5 is actually much higher than most realize, in real probability terms it’s closer to 5.5 or 6 than it is to 3, and as a result, odds makers will often use 3.5 to trap bettors into betting the favorite, as bettors don’t realize how high the line actually is. That alone isn’t enough for the Lions to be worth betting and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if the Dolphins won by more than a field goal, but the Lions are the pick for pick ‘em purposes by the slimmest of margins. At -3, I would take the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins 30 Detroit Lions 27

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3.5

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (1-4) at Dallas Cowboys (4-2)

The Lions began the season as the highest scoring team in the league through 4 games, averaging 35.0 points per game, before being shut out in week 5 against the Patriots. The common thinking seems to be that the Lions’ dominant offensive start was legitimate and that they just happened to run into a dominant defense in week 5, but I don’t think that’s correct. Even with the Patriots’ game taken into account, the Lions still rank 3rd in the NFL in points per game at 28.0, but in terms of first down rate, which is much more predictive than points, the Lions rank just 13th, 18th when adjusted for strength of schedule.

That’s still pretty solid, but it’s a big concern for a Lions team that has one of the worst defenses in the league and relies on their offense’s ability to keep up in shootouts to win games. A year after ranking 30th in defensive efficiency, about 4 points below average, the Lions have somehow been even worse this season, ranking dead last, about 5.5 points below average, especially struggling since losing two of their better players, safety Tracy Walker and edge defender Charles Harris, due to injuries. My roster rankings tell the same story, with the Lions’ defense being 5 points below average without Walker and Harris. Overall, both my roster rankings and schedule adjusted efficiency have the Lions about 5 points below average overall as a team, making them one of the worst in the league, despite an impressive points total.

With that in mind, I like the Cowboys a lot this week. Many thought the Cowboys’ season was over when they lost quarterback Dak Prescott for an extended period of time in a week 1 blowout loss to the Buccaneers, but the Cowboys’ defense has been dominant this season, ranking 2nd in schedule adjusted efficiency, and, led by that defense, backup Mike White won 4 of 5 games in Prescott’s absence. With Prescott set to return to the lineup for a 4-2 team with a dominant defense, the Cowboys are in position to be a serious contender going forward. 

I’m a little wary of betting on the Cowboys in Prescott’s first game back, especially considering how he struggled in his first game back from a shoulder injury last season, and the Cowboys have offensive problems beyond Prescott, ranking just 24th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency thus far this season, but, even with Prescott factored in at less than 100%, the Cowboys still rank 4 points above average in my roster rankings, 9 points ahead of the Lions. 

In addition to how well their defense has played thus far this season, the Cowboys also rank 4th in schedule adjusted special teams efficiency. Given how big the gap between them and the Lions is, we are getting significant line value with the Cowboys as mere 6.5-point home favorites, with my calculated line being Dallas -11. This isn’t a big play, but the Cowboys are worth a bet this week if you can get this line at less than a touchdown.

Dallas Cowboys 26 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: Dallas -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Detroit Lions at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 5 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (1-3) at New England Patriots (1-3)

Both of these teams are dealing with significant injury problems on offense. For the Patriots, the problem is that they are down to third string quarterback Bailey Zappe, a 4th round rookie and a significant downgrade from normal starter Mac Jones. The Lions, on the other hand, have starting quarterback Jared Goff healthy, but the problem is the sheer quantity of injuries around him on offense. Two of his top-4 wide receivers, DJ Chark and Quintez Cephus, are both out, while the other two are both questionable, with top receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown seeming like a gametime decision at best, getting in just one limited practice on Friday, his first practice time since getting hurt two weeks prior. On top of that, feature back D’Andre Swift is also out.

The Lions still have the better offense than the Patriots, as they would if both teams were healthy, but the Patriots have a much bigger edge on the other side of the ball, with the Lions having arguably the worst defense in the league. Even with a third string quarterback under center, I have the Patriots calculated as 4-point favorites in this game, so we’re getting some line value with them at -3, though not nearly enough for them to be worth betting and if St Brown ends up playing I’ll probably drop all confidence on New England.

Update: St. Brown and fellow wide receiver Josh Reynolds are both playing, so I’ll lower this to no confidence.

New England Patriots 23 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions: 2022 Week 4 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at Detroit Lions (1-2)

This line has moved from favoring the Lions by 6 points on the early line last week to just 3.5 points this week, but I don’t think the line has moved enough, with the Lions losing feature back D’Andre Swift and #1 wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to injury, while already missing starting guards Jonah Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. That will make it very difficult for this offense to function like it has been to start the season, which is a problem for a team with a defense that is still underwhelming at best. 

I actually have the Seahawks slightly ahead of the Lions in my roster rankings, so we’re getting good line value with them as 3.5 point underdogs. My calculated line has Detroit favored by two points and, while it might not seem like much, 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly three points, so getting the Seahawks at +3.5 is a big deal, especially since that is the number that covers the spread most often (53.0%). All in all, 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer and the Seahawks have a good chance to keep this game close or even pull the outright upset. This isn’t a big play, but the Seahawks are worth betting this week.

Detroit Lions 30 Seattle Seahawks 28

Pick against the spread: Seattle +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week. This line shifted from favoring the Vikings by 8 points on the early line last week to now only favoring them by 6 points and ordinarily I would like to fade that kind of line movement, as significant week-to-week line movements tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but, in this case, I think the movement is appropriate, as the Lions beat the Commanders convincingly this week without stud center Frank Ragnow, who returns this week, while the Vikings lost by double digits to the Eagles last week and now are without safety Harrison Smith, one of their best defensive players. My calculated line still has the Vikings getting a little bit of line value as 6-point home favorites, but I would take the Lions at +6.5. That’s how close this one is for me. A push is also a strong possibility.

Minnesota Vikings 33 Detroit Lions 27

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -6

Confidence: None