Last season, the Detroit Lions’ shocked the world with a Week 18 victory over the Green Bay Packers. The upset eliminated the Packers from the playoff contention and altered the course of both franchises. After the loss, Aaron Rodgers declined a jersey swap, adding fuel to the speculation that he played his last home game at Lambeau Field. A few months later, Rodgers was a New York Jet, as Green Bay entered a new era with Jordan Love as the starting quarterback.
Many looked back at that last season’s Week 18 upset by the Lions as a passing of the torch in the NFC North. With Rodgers out of the way, Detroit spent the summer as the clear betting favorite to take over the top spot in the division. Personally, I felt that the market was counting Green Bay out a little prematurely. However, with Minnesota and Chicago both starting the season 0-3, a victory tonight over Green Bay would make a powerful statement that the North now runs through the team that sports Honolulu Blue.
The Lions are listed as small favorites as Dan Campbell returns to the scene where his team ended the Rodgers era in Green Bay. The odds tell the story. This is going to be a highly competitive matchup to see who takes an early lead in the NFC North. Let’s break down a few things to look out for, along with my best bet.
Detroit Lions -1.5 at Green Bay Packers O/U 46
The Injury Report
Who’s in? Who’s out? How does the line move? These are the three most important questions for bettors. Both offensive lines are in flux. On the Lions’ side, RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai is out and LT Taylor Decker is questionable. Decker’s backup, Matt Nelson, is also out with a broken ankle, leaving rookie Colby Sorsdal to get the call if Decker can’t go or aggravates the injury in game. Sorsdal earned a 51.3 PFF grade (80th) in limited action this year.
The Packers offensive line will be without LT David Bakhtiari and G Elgton Jenkins. However, Green Bay is expected to have both RB Aaron Jones and WR Christian Watson available, a much-needed boost for a Packers offense that was shutout for the first three quarters in last week’s 18-17 win over the Saints. As we get closer to kickoff, and bettors get more comfortable that Watson and Jones will be on the field, there is a chance the odds could move in Green Bay’s favor, making the spread even tighter. Especially if CB Jaire Alexander is able to return to the lineup.
The common opponent: Atlanta Falcons
Styles make fights. Therefore, any singular data point shouldn’t be the sole reason for a wager, but it’s certainly useful information in determining where each team could have success against each other. Think of it more like a pillar of your handicap. Detroit was able to beat the team that handed the Packers their only loss the season, but also had the benefit of facing the Falcons at home. The Detroit defense, particularly the pass rush, had Desmond Ridder looking every bit like a quarterback making only his seventh start in the league. The Lions sacked Ridder seven times while holding the Falcons offense to a measly 183 yards of total offense and 2.8 yards per play.
In the Packers’ 25-24 loss to Atlanta, the Falcons moved the ball up and down the field to the tune of 446 yards of offense. The formula to beating Arthur Smith’s offense is pretty straightforward, and always starts with shutting down the run and forcing the quarterback to make plays. The Packers couldn’t do it. Bijan Robinson ran wild for 124 yards, but was bottled up for only 33 yards against the Lions. The Lions rush defense, which ranks fifth (holding opponents to a 29.1% success rate), will likely prioritize keeping Aaron Jones under wraps, and forcing Love to beat them.
Christian Watson is a difference maker
I like Green Bay as a home underdog in this spot. I think Matt LaFleur is one of the most underrated coaches in the league. I had no problem putting my money where my mouth was by recommending both LaFleur and Mike McDaniel as coach of the year bets this summer. While the Lions defense might have success slowing down Aaron Jones, the addition of Christian Watson to the lineup is massive for the Packers. Jordan Love has shown the willingness to push the ball aggressively down the field (Love leads all QBs in air yards), and Watson has the big-play ability to maximize those shots. Detroit has allowed nine explosive pass plays on the season, which is around league average, but their coverage grade is in the bottom 10 of the league. Geno Smith had a day against Detroit in Week 2, throwing for 328 yards while completing 78% of his passes. The game will come to Love’s ability to hit deep shots, and I’m betting he leads the way for the Packers to get revenge.
I recommend grabbing the moneyline while it’s still at plus money. If the injury updates come in strongly in Green Bay’s favor, line movement will likely follow in their direction, so you’ll end up getting the best number before then. If there is no movement, Green Bay is also a nice teaser option (up to 7.5) as well. Possible teams to pair them up with would be the Ravens, Texans (up to 8.5) or the Eagles and Chiefs (down to -2.5) if those teams fall into range.
Stats provided by pff and rbsdm.com