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Expert NFL Prediction: Lindy’s Best Bet for Lions-Chiefs Thursday Night Football (September 7)

It’s time to continue our Lindy’s Best NFL Locks Today series. For Thursday’s expert NFL picks, we are taking a look at the point spread as we get a load of the first Thursday Night Football action of the 2023 season, starring the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Expert NFL Picks Today: Lions-Chiefs | September 7

Detroit LionsKansas City Chiefs (53.5 Game Total)

We enter the opening night of NFL play with an unfortunate situation surrounding Kansas City Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce, who hyperextended his knee in practice on Tuesday and will most likely miss Thursday Night’s opener. In the aftermath of the injury, the Chiefs went from 7- to 4.5-point favorites, a remarkable 2.5-point drop through key numbers that only a few non-quarterbacks in the NFL could ever cause. But considering Kelce is coming off another sublime season in 2022 — 137 catches, 1,595 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns — the line move is understandable.

However, if you’re like me and were willing to play the Chiefs at -7 with Kelce, -4.5 without him shouldn’t sound like too much of a stretch. After all, Patrick Mahomes will still be lining up under center, and the Chiefs’ elite quarterback has solved this problem in the past. Kelce’s only absence the past five seasons was Week 16 of 2021, and all Mahomes did was throw for 258 yards and three touchdowns with no picks in a 36-10 routing of a formidable Steelers defense. It’s all of a one-game sample size, but the point remains: Mahomes is quite good at the most important position in football.

As for the Lions, they enter the 2023 season as the odds-on favorites to win the NFC North. This marks a miraculous turnaround under head coach Dan Campbell, but there are still some glaring holes on this football team. Last season, the Detroit defense gave up 392.4 yards per game (last in NFL), 23.9 points per game (28th in NFL), and finished as only the 17th-best defensive unit in the league according to PFF. In this specific matchup, they’ll be heavily relying on second-round rookie Brian Branch to slow down Kadarius Toney in the slot, which is a difficult ask. And apart from elite edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who should find success against subpar Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor, there are very few winnable matchups for the Lions on the defensive end.

That makes the Chiefs defensive matchup versus the Lions’ formidable offense the last remaining piece to this puzzle. With defensive tackle Chris Jones still on the shelf amid contract negotiations, the Chiefs will be without their best overall player on that side of the ball. Plus, the Lions utilized the 12th pick in the NFL Draft to add dynamic running back Jahmyr Gibbs and the 35th pick to claim athletic tight end Sam LaPorta out of Iowa. Putting them alongside Amon-Ra St. Brown — who was graded as PFF’s second-best wide receiver in football in 2022 — makes the Lions a formidable offense.

But interestingly enough, in 10 home games including the playoffs in 2022, the Chiefs held opposing teams to just 19.5 points per game. Furthermore, they held road quarterbacks to a mere 207.9 passing yards per game. That echoes the sentiment that Arrowhead Stadium carries one of the best homefield advantages in the NFL and doesn’t bode well for Lions quarterback Jared Goff, who carried a 109.3 passer rating at his home dome in 2022 but just an 87.4 rating on the road. So as important as Kelce is to the Chiefs offense, Mahomes’ presence plus my optimism for this Chiefs defense to keep the Lions’ electric offense in check has me backing the Chiefs laying the 4.5. Let the NFL season commence!

Best NFL Locks Today: Kansas City Chiefs -4.5 (LIKE)

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