Betting Insights for Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs
The NFL officially kicks off its 2023 season tonight with its annual Thursday night showcase, this time featuring the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the upstart Detroit Lions. Game time is 8:30 p.m. eastern on NBC.
The point spread for this matchup opened as Chiefs -7 when the game was announced back in May. But the number has changed significantly in recent days due to the probably the biggest talking point heading into the game.
Chiefs All Pro tight end Travis Kelce hyperextended his knee in practice on Tuesday. Scans showed no structural damage, meaning Kelce could play in the opener. His brother told a Philadelphia radio station that Kelce would play if the swelling dissipates.
Kansas City has officially listed Kelce as questionable. We won't know whether he plays until 90 minutes before kickoff when teams are required to announce inactives.
Kelce's injury news caused the point spread to drop from Chiefs -6.5 on Tuesday morning to -4.5 within 24 hours. That's where the line has stayed ever since at most books.
Chiefs Against the Number
You might think Kansas City laying anything less than a touchdown at home in the league's showcase season opener on the Chiefs' banner-hanging night is a steal, but be careful. For one, it's generally a precarious move to lay anything more than a field goal in an NFL point spread.
And for two, the Chiefs haven't been great in these situations. Kansas City was just 4-10 against the number last season when they were favored by at least 3.5 points. Since 2020, the Chiefs are just 15-28 against the spread when the line favors them by 3.5 points or more.
Despite those meager stats, the Chiefs have generally been pretty damn good in season openers in the Andy Reid era, both against the number and straight up. Kansas City is has covered in seven of Reid's 10 openers, and they've only lost once.
The Chiefs enjoy one of the NFL's most formidable home-field advantages, too. Their record at Arrowhead Stadium is 31-7 since Patrick Mahomes became the starter.
Mahomes In Week 1
Speaking of the NFL's reigning MVP, Mahomes has been virtually perfect in season openers. In his five Week 1 starts, he's thrown for 1,542 yards, 18 touchdowns, and no interceptions, with a 139. passer rating. For reference, the highest achievable passer rating is 158.3.
As you can probably guess from those numbers, Mahomes is undefeated in five Week 1 starts. The Chiefs have won those games by an average score of 37-25. Just two of those openers have been at Arrowhead, though, and, surprisingly, Mahomes and Kansas City have been less dominant in those instances, winning on average only by a 33.5-25 margin.
Keep in mind, though, that Mahomes had Kelce at his disposal in each of those games.
Goff's Track Record
On the other side, Lions starting quarterback Jared Goff has been reliable against the spread in season openers. In all six of his Week 1 starts in the NFL, Goff is 6-0 against the number.
He is 0-2 straight-up as Detroit's signal caller in Week 1, though.
Maybe Just Play the Total
A general rule worth following is to stay away from point spreads when a key player's availability is in question. That might be the best advice in this case given Kelce's circumstances. Plus, neither of these teams are known for defense. Perhaps the 53.5 total is of interest, then?
The Chiefs and Lions both ranked poorly in points allowed in 2022. Kansas City surrendered 21.7 points per game, ranking 16th in the NFL, and Detroit gave up an average of 25.1, ranking 28th. The Chiefs were much better in terms of total defense, though. They gave up an average of 328 yards per game last season, which was 11th-best in the league. The Lions ranked dead last, surrendering 392 yards on average.
Detroit overhauled its secondary in the offseason to address its defensive issues. The Lions signed C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Cam Sutton, and Emmanuel Moseley. They also used the 45th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on hard-hitting safety Brian Branch. You can safely bet the Lions won't bring up the rear in total defense in 2023.
The Chiefs will be without their best defender, Chris Jones, who's amid a long holdout as he angles for a bigger deal.