The Lions, fresh off their bye, now travel to Heinz Field Sunday to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in an effort to snap into the win column.
You don’t need this reporter to tell you the sportsbooks aren’t exactly expecting that to happen, with the Lions 8.5-point underdogs. Can’t even find any good juice on that number — it’s -110 across the board.
On the moneyline side, the best odds are over at WynnBET, at +320 for a Lions victory.
So. Is it in the realm of possibility? Can the Lions go to Pittsburgh — where the weather is expected to be wet with a high of 44 degrees — and topple the men from Steeltown?
Well … why not?
There’s always two
The Steelers offense is banged up and predictable. Ben Roethlisberger is basically a game manager at this point, and he’s without JuJu Smith-Schuster and, likely it seems, Chase Claypool. The offense is going to continue to run through Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson, and that’s pretty much that.
Now, the Lions defense isn’t exactly a killer unit — OK fine, they stink — but it’s not like the Steelers are a juggernaut. Bottom line: The matchup isn’t terrible.
On the other side of the ball, as usual, it comes down to two key players for the Lions: D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson. And this is where the Lions might be able to butter their bread.
Every NFL analyst will tell you the same thing about the Steelers defense: They don’t scheme for opponents. They run out their base defense, week in and week out. And their base defense has long been susceptible to tight ends and pass-catching running backs over the middle.
This season has been no different. Last week when the Steelers faced the Bears, Cole Kmet had six catches for 87 yards. For the Browns, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant combined for five catches for 72 yards. The Seahawks’ Gerald Everett and Will Dissly, four for 48 (with Geno Smith). And when they faced Swift-ian type backs? The Packers’ Aaron Jones grabbed three balls for 51 yards … and that’s it. They really haven’t been tested by a pass-catching running back.
Head coach Dan Campbell, in recent weeks, has seen fit to get Swift and Hockenson their touches. Swift is averaging 18 touches a game, Hockenson over 10 targets. Good things will happen if those trends continue.
The Lions might win this game, folks.
Prop town, USA
Beyond the point spread and moneyline, the player prop market looks juicy for the Lions this week, especially if the Hockenson and Swift storylines play out.
Over 4.5 receptions for Swift is priced up to -150 on BetMGM and Caesars, and Hockenson’s number is set at 4.5 on Caesars for -140. But you can also get Hockenson for over 5.5 receptions — he’s done it three games in a row — at +125 on BetMGM.
Lastly, Swift’s rushing + receiving number is set at 87.5 at -110 on Caesars.
Photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY