Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: 2019 Week 17 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (12-3) at Detroit Lions (3-11-1)

It’s hard to believe there was a time when the Lions were 2-0-1. In fact, when the Lions and Packers met the first time back in week 6, the Lions could have taken over the division lead had they prevailed in a game that ended up being a 1-point loss. Even as late as week 10, the Lions were still in playoff contention at 3-4-1, but quarterback Matt Stafford injured his back and ended up missing the remainder of the season. As a result, the wheels have fallen off for this team. With one of the worst backup quarterback situations in the league, the Lions have lost all 7 games since Stafford went down, dropping them to 3-11-1 on the season.

The Lions ranked 15th in the NFL in first down rate differential at 36.75% at the time Stafford went down, but have managed just a 30.96% first down rate in their past 7 games without him, most equivalent to the 31st ranked Jaguars on the season. With a defense that ranks 26th in the NFL on the season with a 38.10% first down rate allowed, the Lions are undoubtedly one of the worst few teams in the league. They currently rank just 29th in my roster rankings. 

The Packers, meanwhile, are at the opposite end of the spectrum, able to lock up a first round bye in the NFC with a win in this game. However, they’re not quite as good as their record suggests. A lot of their wins have been close, with 7 of 12 games coming by one score or fewer and an average margin of victory of 9.25 points per game. On the flip side, two of their three losses have come by 15 points or fewer, giving them a point differential of +60 that ranks 9th in the NFL, suggesting they’ve played more like a 10-5 team this season. This spread requires them to win by 13 or more points on the road, so their inability to blow teams out this season is very relevant. They could still blowout a hapless Lions team, so I definitely don’t want to bet on the Lions, but I am taking them for pick ‘em purposes, though this is more of a fade of a slightly overrated Packers team than anything.

Green Bay Packers 27 Detroit Lions 16

Pick against the spread: Detroit +12.5

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-10-1) at Denver Broncos (5-9)

Earlier in the season, the Broncos were an underrated team, but the injuries have started to pile up for them. Already without right tackle Ja’Wuan James for most of the season, the Broncos are now also without right guard Ronald Leary, while their defense is missing defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis and possibly Dre’Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker, leaving them very thin upfront. On top of that, they’ll be without Pro-Bowl caliber safety Kareem Jackson for the rest of the season with suspension, which is their single biggest absence.

Despite those absences, the Broncos are favored by a touchdown at home over the Lions. The Lions’ season has been derailed by injuries, most notably quarterback Matt Stafford, but also right tackle Ricky Wagner, wide receiver Marvin Jones, and defensive tackles A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand, but the Broncos shouldn’t be favored by this many points over anyone. In fact, I have these two teams close to equal in my roster rankings, with the Broncos 27th and the Lions 29th. 

My calculated line is Denver -3, so we’re getting significant line value with the Lions. I don’t want to bet heavily on the Lions, especially since this could be a look ahead spot with a home game against the Packers on deck (teams are 20-42 ATS since 2016 before being 7+ point home underdogs and the Lions are 9.5-point home underdogs on the early line), but the Lions are a solid play this week. This should be a close, low scoring game between two very underwhelming teams.

Denver Broncos 17 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Detroit +7

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions: 2019 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) at Detroit Lions (3-9-1)

The Lions’ season has been completely derailed by quarterback Matt Stafford’s back injury, as they’ve lost 5 straight games in his absence to fall to 3-9-1. Stafford was in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career before going down and backups Jeff Driskel and David Blough are among the worst backup quarterbacks in the NFL. The Lions ranked 15th in the NFL in first down rate through 8 games at 36.75%, but they have just a 31.75% first down rate in 5 games without Stafford, which is most equivalent to the 29th ranked Bengals on the season. With a defense that ranks 26th in first down rate allowed on the season at 37.90%, the Lions are one of the worst overall teams in the league. Also without wide receiver Marvin Jones, right tackle Ricky Wagner, and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson this week, the Lions rank just 28th in my roster rankings.

The Buccaneers have their own injury problems though, with dominant wide receiver Mike Evans and starting left tackle Donovan Smith both out for this game. The most concerning injury might be the injury to Jameis Winston’s thumb on his throwing hand. Winston isn’t even listed on the injury report, but he has a small fracture in his thumb and, while he’s not likely to make the injury worse playing through it, there was some question this week whether or not it would limit him, which creates a lot of uncertainty with this game. If Winston is able to play through the injury without problem, this line is about right at Tampa Bay -4.5, as the Buccaneers rank 11th in first down rate differential on the season at +1.68% and are significantly better than the Lions even without Evans and Smith, but the uncertainty with Winston’s injury makes the Lions a safer choice. This is a no confidence pick either way.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +4.5

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-8-1) at Minnesota Vikings (8-4)

The Lions’ season has gone off the rails since losing quarterback Matt Stafford to an injury. They had a record of 3-4-1 when Stafford went down and have lost 4 straight without him to fall out of post-season contention entirely. The Lions ranked 15th in the NFL in first down rate through 8 games at 36.75%, but they have just a 32.59% first down rate in 4 games without Stafford, which is most equivalent to the 25th ranked Dolphins on the season. With a defense that ranks 28th in first down rate allowed on the season at 38.22%, the Lions don’t have much going for them on either side of the ball right now.

The Lions are on to their third quarterback of the season, undrafted rookie David Blough, with backup Jeff Driskel going on injured reserve, but that might not be a bad thing. Driskel was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this season and it wouldn’t be hard for Blough to be a little bit of an upgrade. It’s tough to tell from his up and down debut if that’s the case, however, and he doesn’t have an overly talented roster around him, so it’s not an easy situation for the inexperienced rookie.

The Lions are big underdogs in Minnesota this week, with the Vikings favored by 13 points. That’s about right, as the Lions are one of the worst teams in the league and the Vikings rank 5th in first down rate differential at +4.77% and 9th in my roster rankings. We’re not getting enough line value to take the Vikings confidently, but they seem like the right side as long as left tackle Riley Reiff is able to get cleared from his concussion. If he can’t, I’ll probably switch this pick to Detroit. This is a no confidence pick either way.

Final Update: Reiff is playing, so the Vikings should be the right side.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -13

Confidence: None

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (5-6) at Detroit Lions (3-7-1)

Last week, the Lions were inexplicably favored by 3.5 points in Washington (the line got up to 5 in some places before game time), despite starting one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the league in Jeff Driskel and missing several starters at other positions. The Lions predictably lost that game straight up and never really came close to covering. This week, the line has swung the other way, with the Lions going from being favored by a point at home over the Bears on the early line last week to being 6 point underdogs this week.

That’s in part due to the Lions having to turn to third string quarterback David Blough, with Driskel unable to go on a short week after injuring his hamstring. This line opened with the Lions as 3.5 point home underdogs, but that went up to 6 points when Blough was announced as the starter. I haven’t seen much of Blough, an undrafted rookie who didn’t show much in the pre-season with the Browns, but it’s likely he won’t be much of a downgrade from Driskel, who is barely an NFL caliber quarterback, so Driskel’s absence is not that significant. 

On the other hand, the Lions getting back defensive end Trey Flowers, center Frank Ragnow, and possibly defensive end Da’Shawn Hand and safety Tracy Walker are significant, as is the absence of right tackle Bobby Massie for the Bears. Even if this line was still at 3.5, we’d be getting some line value with the Lions, who I have calculated as 1-point underdogs in this game. The Bears are also in a tough spot, with a much tougher game on deck next week against the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. Road favorites are just 25-55 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs, which the Bears almost definitely will be next week. They could easily overlook the Lions this week. I wouldn’t go crazy betting on a David Blough quarterbacked team, but there’s enough value at +6 for the Lions to be worth a small bet.

Chicago Bears 16 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Detroit +6

Confidence: Medium

Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-6-1) at Washington Redskins (1-9)

The Lions are arguably the most injury affected team in the league right now. The most visible absence is quarterback Matt Stafford, who will miss his third straight game with a back injury, but the Lions are also missing several other key contributors. Defensive end Trey Flowers, center Frank Ragnow, running back Kerryon Johnson, defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand, and safety Tracy Walker are all out for this game, while cornerback Rashaan Melvin is questionable after picking up a late week injury. The Lions only rank 25th in first down rate differential at -3.11% and, factoring in all their absences, they rank 30th in my roster rankings.

The Redskins rank 31st in first down rate differential at -8.21%, but they actually rank one spot better than the Lions in my roster rankings. With these two teams about even, I have this line calculated at Washington -3, so I genuinely don’t understand why the Lions are favored in this game by 3.5. Even if Stafford was healthy, I’d have the Lions favored by just 5 points on the road in this matchup, as their largest margin of victory this season was a 5-point home win over the Giants. The Lions are also in a tough spot with another game in 4 days on deck, a spot with a 44% cover rate all-time, so the Redskins are my top pick this week.

Washington Redskins 17 Detroit Lions 13 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: Washington +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at Detroit Lions (3-5-1)

The Lions will be without quarterback Matt Stafford for the second straight week, but he’s not their only significant injury situation. The Lions will also be without defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, right tackle Ricky Wagner, and could be without safety Tracy Walker, who has missed two games and barely practiced this week, and defensive end Romeo Okwara, who didn’t play last week and was limited in practice this week.

Stafford’s absence is obviously the biggest though, as the drop off from him to backup quarterback Jeff Driskel is immense. Stafford was having a strong season before getting hurt, while Driskel was signed in mid-September and was playing wide receiver for the Bengals this pre-season. Even with Stafford in the lineup, the Lions ranked just 23rd in first down rate differential at -3.00% and now without Stafford I have the Lions 28th in my roster rankings, only ahead of the Redskins, Jets, Bengals, and Dolphins.

Stafford’s absence comes at a bad time this week, with a tough Cowboys team coming to town. The Cowboys’ 5-4 record isn’t overly impressive, but they’ve played better than that suggests. While their 4 losses have come by a combined 18 points, their 5 wins have come by a combined 99 points, giving them a +81 point differential that ranks 4th in the NFL. They also rank 3rd in first down rate differential at +6.07% and 3rd in my roster rankings as well. They’ve faced a relatively easy schedule, 30th in opponent’s DVOA, but their schedule isn’t getting any tougher this week. They should be favored by at least 10, so we’re getting good line value with the Cowboys at -7.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys are in a terrible spot, as they have to go to New England next week, a game in which they are currently 7-point underdogs on the early line. Favorites of 6 or more are 34-62 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 6 or more. If this line were to dip below a touchdown, that would probably be enough line value they I’d talk myself into betting the Cowboys even in a bad spot, but at -7 I don’t think they’re worth the risk.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Dallas -7

Confidence: Low