Friday night in Charlotte, the Detroit Lions will take the field against the Carolina Panthers in a final tune-up before the start of the NFL regular season. And if history is any guide, expect less of a “tune up” and more of a “tune out” when it comes to how the Lions deploy their starters.
Speaking to reporters this week, coach Dan Campbell said the third and final preseason game is “going to look very much like the first two games.” And in those games, the closest thing to a skill position starter playing was in the first game, where rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs got six carries and a reception.
As such — and with the Panthers expected to trot out their starters for at least part of the game — the Lions have been installed as +175 underdogs on the moneyline at FanDuel and 4.5-point underdogs at all of Michigan’s mobile sportsbooks.
In another press conference, Campbell conceded not playing his starters risks losing some intensity for the players, but said he and his staff have used training camp to try to duplicate the feeling of a game.
“I feel like we can mimic that in practice in a controlled environment,” Campbell said.
Campbell, in other words, doesn’t want to risk any injuries to his squad — one that is the favorite to win the NFC North at +145 on FanDuel. (And Campbell remains the Coach of the Year favorite at +1100 at BetRivers.)
So while Friday night’s game will serve as a last-ditch effort for players seeking to make the roster, it’s probably safe to assume the staff is already looking ahead to opening night in two weeks, when the upstart Lions travel to Kansas City to take on the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in a nationally televised game to start the NFL season.
The Lions are -6.5 underdogs in that contest right now, and are +240 on the moneyline (both of those odds courtesy of FanDuel).
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