NFL Picks & Preview — Detroit Lions vs Denver Broncos

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Short-handed Detroit Lions Hope to Follow Up First Win With Solid Outing vs Denver Broncos

By Charles Jay

The Detroit Lions are rather jubilant about getting their first win of the season. And for some of the team’s most ardent supporters, it’s about time. The Lions had been doing well enough to win on several occasions, but getting over the top was a problem. Those BetOnline customers making their NFL picks are asking whether they can follow up on that.

Well, can they?

The Lions, sporting a 1-10-1 record, travel to Mile High country to take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Game time is 4:05 PM ET.

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Sooner or later, it had to happen?

Last week the Lions blew a 14-point lead and then had to come from behind. On the last play of the game, they scored a touchdown to beat the Minnesota Vikings 29-27.

If you look at the line-by-line record, Detroit has lost four games by a field goal or less. The Lions also played Pittsburgh to a draw. So they didn’t really fit the profile of a stumbling, bumbling team like the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And the clue there was the pointspread mark, which currently sits at 8-4 ATS. So they have been performing over and above expectations.  

We’re not going to go out of our way extolling the virtues of this team. They don’t up big statistically. But they have played with some heart and effort, and that may be a tribute to the way they respond to Dan Campbell. The first-year head coach, who had previously served in an interim capacity for the Dolphins, is emotional. And, well, in a way, inspiring.

Run, run, run?

Whether Campbell is proficient from a technical standpoint is another question. That means something because Campbell appointed himself the play-caller a few weeks back. And the Lions had the good fortune of gaining a 16-16 tie with Pittsburgh. Campbell’s philosophy is that he wants the running game as a priority. Actually, that is not a whole lot different than Anthony Lynn,  his offensive coordinator. Lynn was the coach of the Chargers, and he has also been a running backs coach and coordinator for the likes of Rex Ryan in Buffalo.

But the Lions are going to be short-handed in the backfield for this game. D’Andre Swift, the leading rusher (555 yards) is out with a shoulder injury. And Jamaal Williams, who is next with 459 yards, is in the COVID protocol.

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More Detroit Lions missing

There are a number of Lions who join Williams in the COVID protocol. Among them are safety Tracy Walker, center Evan Brown and corner Ifeatu Melifonwu. The fact is, Detroit is down to two healthy cornerback for this game.

Here are the numbers…..

In the NFL odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the Broncos are the favorites:

Denver Broncos  -11
Detroit Lions  +11

Over 42 points -110
Under 42 points -110

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Lions’ challenge – stretch things out

Without those top two backs, and no one else with even a hundred yards, Detroit will have a hard time establishing something on the ground. And if they are limited in that respect, Jared Goff becomes an easier problem to solve. Goff had 296 yards last week. And he directed the final drive that saw the Lions go the length of the field to beat Minnesota.

But Goff has thrown for just 6.3 Intended Air Yards per attempt. That is dead last among all starting quarterbacks. In effect, he doesn’t throw the ball that far beyond the line of scrimmage. What that allows Denver to do is perhaps cheat a little with its usual two-deep safety alignment. That tightens things up and makes it more difficult for the Lions to open up the offense.

Broncos’ ground game is for real

While it’s true that Denver lost 22-9 to Kansas City last week, there were bright spots. And one of them was Jamaal Williams, who has broken more tackles than any running back in the NFL. He is good enough that it doesn’t really matter much that Melvin Gordon may not be able to play. He’s listed as questionable with hip and shoulder injuries.

Denver’s problem against the Chiefs was that they became predictable in short-yardage situations. According to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, they just couldn’t execute. But there is no question that head coach Vic Fangio would like to control the clock. And he’s got the people to do it against this opponent, although the shortages in the secondary are inviting.

Our conclusion

None of this necessarily means the Broncos are going to cover this number. We point to Detroit’s pointspread record as evidence that this won’t be an easy task. But how Detroit operates (only two scoring outputs above 20 points) promotes plays under the total. And Denver has played ten unders in 12 games.

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Dirty has been an employee or owner of some of the top online sports gambling forums since 1998. He worked at EOG.com from it's inception until 2008 when he left and opened GamblingIQ and then in 2012 opened Handicappers Hidaway. He has written hundreds af articles over the years and always has his "Dirty Dozen" College Football poll up starting the first week of October.
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