The Detroit Lions and their fans have been starved for a winner, and after 10 straight losing seasons the table looks like it’s set. Detroit has apparently accumulated the requisite talent and a little experience, as they advanced from 0-16 in 2008 to 6-10 last year. Now, according to a good percentage of folks who follow these kinds of things, all the Lions have to do is stay healthy and they should find themselves in the playoffs.
However, there’s always something about younger teams that have not experienced success, but who are suddenly expected to do so. Playing with heightened expectations can be, for whatever reason, a burden, and often teams that are chic picks to click, as Detroit is this season, fall short of hopes. So the Lions will fight that this year.
Last year most sportsbooks sent Detroit off with a regular-season wins over/under of five. And the Lions should have started 1-0 but for a bullshit call in the waning moments at Soldier Field. Detroit then continued on with its 2-10 start, losing QB Matt Stafford twice along the way, by losing by three points to Philly, by two at Green Bay, by eight at the Giants, by three to the Jets, by two at Buffalo and by four to the Bears.
But the Lions persevered, and ended with a flurry, beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers, winning at Tampa Bay and at Miami and knocking off Minnesota. And while they finished four games under .500 at 6-10 they only got outscored by seven points on the season.
Detroit was also the best team in the league to bet on last year, going 12-4 ATS. And they went 10-5-1 on the over/unders, as Lions games averaged 46 points.
Offensively Detroit ranked 17th last year at 339 YPG, but only 23rd in rushing at 101 YPG. This year, with a healthy Stafford, or maybe even veteran backup Shaun Hill, WR Calvin Johnson and RB Jahvid Best leading the way, the Lions offense should be better.
But it was on defense that Detroit made real strides last year. With the addition of DT Ndamukong Suh and a few others, the Lions improved from ranking dead last in total defense the three previous seasons to 21st last year, allowing 343 YPG.
Overall Detroit ranked 20th last year in total yardage at -5 YPG.
The Lions addressed the defense during the off-season, drafting DT Nick Fairley No. 13 overall and signing LB Bobby Carpenter and CB Eric Wright. But Detroit got bad news right off the bat during camp when Fairly hurt his foot and needed surgery. He’ll miss at least all of camp. Then rookie RB Mikel Leshoure, who was supposed to see some playing time, tore his Achilles and is out for the season. And the Lions were already taking hits along the O line. So Detroit’s team health is already a situation that deserves the attention of bettors.
This year’s schedule is not exactly kind; the Lions will play seven games vs. 2010 playoff teams, plus road games at Tampa, Dallas and Oakland. Overall Detroit’s strength-of-schedule ranks tied for third-toughest, based on last year’s records.
Bodog.EU is listing the Lions at +500 to win the NFC North this year, at 15/1 to win the NFC and 30/1 to win their first-ever Super Bowl title, with a regular-season wins over/under of 7.5. Those are lousy odds for a team that hasn’t made the post-season since 1999. And because we don’t like going with the crowd, we’ll play the under 7.5 wins on Detroit.