The one unit on the Lions that is actually above average on paper is their offensive line. That was until left tackle Taylor Decker unexpectedly started missing practices.
Decker has been officially ruled out for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers and that has helped the point spread climb from -7.5 to -8.5 and even -9 in some shops. Prior to Decker’s injury, the point spread was stagnant at -7.5 since May. The over/under is currently at 46 with a rare 45.5 in some places.
It’s easy to see why Pros and Joes feel Decker’s absence will influence the game. His removal will likely force rookie Penei Sewell to play left tackle and Sewell has struggled mightily in the preseason. A struggling rookie in his first NFL start is bound to make a handful of mistakes and Nick Bosa has to be licking his chops. That narrative, combined with the fact that Jared Goff handles pressure about as well as a soda can, makes a blowout possible.
The case for Detroit +8.5
1. The 49ers defense is expected to one of the best in the league, but what if Robert Saleh is actually what made it so special? This is DeMeco Ryan’s first game as defensive coordinator, so there’s a possibility he’s in over his head and not ready for the big stage. All indications out of San Francisco are that Ryans will perform well, but do you really want to risk your money on a unknown?
2. The 49ers are playing an early game in an eastern time zone and are a heavy road favorite. Sharp bettors are typically weary of betting on the favorites in these spots due to historical betting trends.
The case for San Francisco -8.5
1. The coaching mismatch is glaring. Kyle Shanahan is regarded as one of the brightest minds in the game, and Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell has been Twitter fodder all offseason for his remarks about his players biting knee caps. The transition to head coach isn’t easy and it’s plausible that Campbell could be in way over his head. If so, that will be most evident in Week 1.
2. The scariest part for bettors taking an 8.5 point favorite is the dreaded “back door cover” which is when the underdog is trailing late in the fourth quarter and scores a gift touchdown while the heavy favorites are playing prevent defense to cover the spread. Because the 49ers pass rush is so strong, and the Lions offensive line is banged up, the 49ers should be able to get pressure with four down linemen, even if the rest of the defense is playing prevent. With the back-door-cover risk decreased, taking the 49ers is more appealing.
The 49ers are 30-18-2 ATS on the road when traveling 1500+ miles.
The Lions are 4-11 ATS when hosting as an underdog.
The Lions are 10-0 to the over in their last 10 Week 1 games.
Best Bet: 49ers -8.5