The Detroit Lions are attempting to be the team everyone left for irrelevant that proves to be anything but.
Just think: Five weeks ago, after the Lions fell to 1-6 on this season (a year after going 3-13-1), DraftKings was offering odds of +200000 for them to win the Super Bowl and +7500 to make the playoffs. Sucker bets, right? Wish you had them now?
After they won five of their last six games, with the only loss a heartbreaker to the Super Bowl-favored Buffalo Bills, DraftKings now pegs the Lions at +9000 to win it all and +275 to make the playoffs. Those Super Bowl odds are shorter than those of the New York Jets, New England Patriots, and Seattle Seahawks.
Incidentally, FiveThirtyEight.com projects their playoff odds at 25%, more than three times what they were before they beat the Minnesota Vikings last week. Odds of +275 translate to a 26.7% chance, so it appears the books are getting increasingly wary of the Lions and are adjusting their prices accordingly.
It’s been a remarkable surge under coach Dan Campbell, but it all could come to naught if his squad doesn’t manage to win this weekend in the Meadowlands, where they are 1-point favorites over the Jets at most books. The 7-6 Jets, by the way, have a 34% chance of qualifying for the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight, so they certainly will be motivated as well.
This game could be a look at two of the more intriguing up-and-coming contenders.
The line and Jets QB shift
The bookmakers have been uncertain how to price this one all week. It opened as Jets -2.5, but the Lions have become the favorite everywhere since then. WynnBet was offering Jets +1.5 as of Friday morning, when 51% of the bets and 55% of the money had come in on New York.
The total opened at 48, but it has been bet down to as low as 43.5 at most books.
This game is intriguing in part because it pits a young, talented Lions offense against a young, talented Jets defense.
The Lions’ biggest edge could be in health. Jets quarterback Mike White was limited at practice on Thursday due to a rib injury, and the team announced Friday morning that Zach Wilson will start this game. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams — arguably the Jets’ best player — had just a 50% chance of playing as of Wednesday, due to a strained calf.
Jared Goff probably isn’t getting enough credit for the Lions’ surge. The team is averaging 32.2 points per game in the last five. In that span, Goff has completed 69.2% of his passes for 1,311 yards, with eight touchdowns, no interceptions, and a stellar 107.9 passer rating.
Goff will be challenged Sunday, however, by a talented Jets secondary led by Rookie of the Year contender Sauce Gardner, already one of the best cover men in the league. The Jets have allowed the second-lowest opponents’ passer rating in the NFL this season (78.1), just behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
There may be better teams playing elsewhere on Sunday, but there might not be a better game on the slate. Whichever team wins this game is well ahead of its expected timeline to rebuild, which makes this one as intriguing as anything in the NFL this weekend.
Photo: Lon Horwedel/USA TODAY