NFL Thursday (Game 1): Buffalo at Detroit
Buffalo at Detroit
Line: Bills -9.5
This is a far more interesting matchup than we expected only a month ago. Popular public pick Buffalo (7-3) gets to play in Detroit (4-6) for a second consecutive week after beating Cleveland on this same field just four days ago in a Week 11 game that had to be moved due to weather. Familiarity with the layout here should help the Bills, who already bring the #2 ranked offense in the NFL into the equation.
Based purely on the numbers, they should feast on the Thanksgiving turkey that's the Lions' #32 defense (ranked dead last in the league). Detroits' defense is so bad that they're surrendering an average of 25 YPG more than the #31 ranked team (Houston). Accordingly, Buffalo has no excuses not to crack into the 30s, one reason their team total is ridiculously high -- at 31.5.
For those considering betting on Detroit plus the generous number of points, let's agree this is a very tasty temptation. The Lions have won three straight games, the first time that's happened since 2017. Detroit beat Green Bay, Chicago, and NY Giants now play a legitimate game with home rooting interest (usually by Thanksgiving the Lions are long gone and out of the playoffs and buried in last place).
We presume Lions fans will show up, but who knows if Buffalo fans don't flood the space, spike the Ford Field punchbowl and spoil up the party. We honestly don't know and can't predict the dynamics here. Home field is hard to measure in this game, though see my comment about travel at the end of this analysis.
What makes us like the Lions is -- Detroit has played very well versus winning teams this season, losing close one-score games to 9-1 Philadelphia, 8-2 Minnesota, 6-4 Seattle, and 7-3 Miami. All four of those games were decided by 4 points or less. Now, Detroit comes in playing with even more confidence.
Lions' backers can also point to perhaps their best defensive effort of the season last week against the Giants, certainly another reason for optimism, holding RB Barkley to a miserable day -- just 22 yards on 15 carries. But let's also be realistic -- the Bills bring far more weapons to the fight. That's why they're laying -9.5 points.
Under head coach Dan Campbell, the Lions are only 7-20 SU (they suck!) but are a league-best 17-9-1 ATS (we love them!). Campbell is also 8-2-1 ATS as a home underdog over 1.5 seasons. Seems this comes down to either a bet on the Lions plus the points or a pass.
For us, the tipping point on taking Detroit +9.5 is legit concern about QB Josh Allen and his arm, who still might not be at 100 percent. Allen threw a season-low number of attempts last week, and has passed for 220+ yards just once in his last four games, along with six interceptions. Let's also note that even though Buffalo beat Cleveland by 8 points last Sunday, the Browns actually outgained Buffalo in total yardage 396-357.
We add up all these factors -- 1. a short prep week, 2. the home underdog playing with confidence, 3. proven trend results, 4. strong percentages on dogs covering this season (58 percent covers for all dogs +3.5 points or higher), 5. injury concerns with QB Allen, and 6. generous points and this all equals a justifiable bet on Detroit plus 9.5.
A final intangible is Buffalo's decision to travel back to Buffalo after last Sunday's game. Even though the travel distance isn't great, that's still two trips in four days, which could cut into practice and preparation.
Detroit Lions +9.5