NFL Odds: Analyzing Detroit Lions' 2016 Road Schedule
by Alan Matthews - 6/13/2016
I am from Michigan so I know a lot of Detroit Lions fans. I only mention this because sometimes winning can be a bad thing.
How's that? The Lions lost their first five games last season and seven of their first eight heading into their bye week. The season was over. Might as well tank and try to get the No. 1 pick in the draft and finish last in the NFC North and get a last-place schedule -- so said most Lions fans. During that bye, the team fired GM Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand.
So there's no way that Coach Jim Caldwell keeps his job after the season, right? I thought there was no chance, but Caldwell made a few midseason changes on his staff and it seemed to work as the Lions closed the year winning six of their final eight games to finish at 7-9 -- the franchise's 13th losing season since 2000. Frankly, the Lions could have won all eight. Detroit lost in the most crushing fashion possible to Green Bay at Ford Field in Week 13 and then by only a touchdown the next week at the Rams.
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I still figured a new front office would still want to dump Caldwell and bring in their own guy, but in a surprise Caldwell survived the purge. I guess he deserved it since the Lions were 11-5 in his first season in 2014 and made the playoffs, losing the wild-card game in Dallas. Caldwell is the only Detroit coach in the Super Bowl era to go through his first two full seasons with an above-.500 record. Plus, Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford apparently is fond of the guy. A lot of players voiced their support for him as well. But there's no question that Caldwell has to win this year or he's out.
Detroit was 3-5 on the road last season, 4-4 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." The Lions play three away teams that made the playoffs last year (just one out of division). I'd still call the road slate harder than at home because of visits to teams like Indy and Dallas, which are playoff-caliber this year. I project a 2-6 road mark. The Lions have a wins total of 7.5 for the season, with the under a -140 favorite. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 11 at Colts (-6, 49.5): Detroit begins life without the retired Calvin Johnson, probably the best receiver in franchise history. And presumably this will be Andrew Luck's return from an injury-shortened 2015 season for Indy. So it's a matchup of former No. 1 overall picks in Luck vs. Matthew Stafford. And Caldwell was the former head coach of the Colts. Indy drafted Luck in 2012 a few months after Caldwell was fired. Key trend: Lions 3-7 ATS in past 10 as a September dog of at least 6 points.
Sept. 25 at Packers (-8.5): Detroit off what should be a home win Week 2 vs. Tennessee. Green Bay opens Minnesota's new stadium the previous Sunday night and is ahead of its bye week. Early trap game? In a game that ruined Survivor Pools everywhere, the Lions won in Green Bay 18-16 in Week 10 last year. Detroit had lost 24 straight in Wisconsin. The Lions tried to blow it as Johnson muffed an onside kick with 31 seconds left to give Green Bay a late field goal try, but Mason Crosby missed it. The Lions had just stopped the Packers on a 2-point conversion. Detroit hadn't defeated Green Bay on the road since a 21-17 victory on Dec. 15, 1991. Key trend: Lions 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 at Lambeau as a dog of at least 7 points.
Oct. 2 at Bears (-1.5): Chicago comes off a Sunday night game in Dallas. The Lions have won three straight at Soldier Field, usually thanks to Johnson. His career ended in Week 17 in Chicago last year, a 24-20 win. Megatron caught 10 passes for 137 yards and a score. Stafford threw for 298 and three TDs. That win meant the Lions finished third in the North instead of last. Key trend: Lions 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Oct. 30 at Texans (-4): Lions off a three-game homestand, all winnable and which culminates Week 7 vs. Washington. Potential major letdown game for Houston as it's on a short week after visiting Denver on Monday night in Week 7 and ahead of the team's bye week. Detroit lost its only visit to Houston in 2008. Key trend: Lions 3-3 ATS all-time at AFC South teams.
Nov. 6 at Vikings (-6.5): This is ahead of Detroit's bye week. Minnesota is on a short week as it visits Chicago on Monday in Week 8. This will be the Lions' first trip to the Vikings' new dome, and Minnesota beat the visiting Lions outdoors 26-16 in Week 2 last year. Stafford really took a beating in that game even though he was only sacked once; the Lions couldn't run the ball at all, so he threw it 52 times. Detroit had three turnovers. Key trend: Lions 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as a road dog of at least 6 points in series (0-10 SU).
Dec. 4 at Saints (-2): Detroit is off a Thanksgiving game vs. Minnesota. New Orleans is home to the Rams in Week 12. The Lions started a season-ending three-game winning streak last year with a 35-27 win at the Superdome on a Monday night. Stafford completed 22 of 25 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns in his highest-rated game of the year. Golden Tate caught two of the scores. Key trend: Lions 4-4 ATS all-time in New Orleans.
Dec. 18 at Giants (-3): Detroit hosts Chicago the previous Sunday. New York is home to Dallas on Sunday night in Week 14. These teams were similar in 2015 in that neither could run the ball whatsoever. The Lions won the last meeting 35-14 at home to open the 2014 season. Key trend: Lions have covered four straight at Giants.
Dec. 26 at Cowboys (-5): Monday night game, the Lions' lone prime-time matchup (they don't get a Thursday night game since they play on Turkey Day). Dallas is off a Week 15 home game vs. Tampa Bay. Detroit's last visit to Dallas was the wild-card game following the 2014 season, a game the Lions had stolen from them by a few bad calls in a 24-20 loss. It was the final game of Ndamukong Suh's Lions career. Key trend: Lions 6-4 ATS in past 10 at NFC East teams.
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