Free Lions vs. Steelers NFL Picks: Detroit On Hot Seat To Show Improvement Soon

Lions vs. Steelers

Mark Lathrop

Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:00 PM GMT

Our NFL handicapper checks out the injury situation for both of these teams coming into preseason Week 1 and also the expected starters that will not see time on the field as he makes his preseason Week 1 Pick.

Football is back! Maybe summers keep getting shorter for me, but the offseason doesn’t seem to last that long anymore. Or, it is the endless stream of coverage and how the NFL has played up the draft that has kept the absence of the NFL in the minds of sports fans to a minimum. Either way, it will be a welcome addition to the card as we’ve been focused solely on baseball the last month or so.

In my first game of the 2016 season, I’ve drawn the preseason Week 1 game with the Detroit Lions visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers. These teams don’t play often, but the Steelers have won the last 4 matchups in convincing fashion. In fact, the Steelers have won 8 of 9 games dating back the last 30 years, with the only Detroit win in 3 decades being a 19-16 win in November, 1998. Not exactly a trend which favors the Lions. The Overs have also cashed in the last 4 matchups in a row between these two teams.

But this is preseason, where anything can happen with the 3rd stringers battling it out by the 4th quarter. The Steelers played five preseason games last year because of the Hall of Fame Game, and went 1-4 in the process. The Steelers went on to go 10-6 on the season before losing to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs.

One of the reasons for the Steelers poor preseason record is Mike Tomlin’s precedence of sitting starters for a majority of the time. Already for this game against the Lions, Tomlin has stated that starters QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Antonio Brown, and C Maurkice Pouncey won’t even suit up for the game.

Now, the Steelers and Lions have been holding joint practices for the last few days, and I’m sure Tomlin seeing the Lions lose some significant players to injury over that time helped his decision even more. Of special importance to this preseason game is the loss of Darius Slay, who would have been slated for a lot of playing time in Week 1, but was held out of practice for an undisclosed injury. Detroit linebacker Jon Bostic was also carted out of practice with a leg injury that appeared to be serious.

As the Lions are a younger team in need of much more gelling than the Steelers, I would expect more of the higher string players to see extended playing time in Preseason Week 1. The Lions were very good in preseason last year, going 3-1 SU and ATS, with the Under cashing in all 4 games as the defense stifled the Jets, Redskins, Jaguars, and Bills. Another reason that the Lions are going to play their higher string players is that head coach, Jim Caldwell, should be on the hot seat this year. If I had a choice in a preseason game between a coach that needs to show any kind of improvement, and another that is firmly entrenched in his job, I’ll take the coach in the hot seat every day of the week.

The odds on this game have been posted, and with the Steelers superior historical record against the Lions I am not surprised that they have been instilled as 3-point favorites. The O/U total has been posted at a low 35.5, also not surprising given the starters on offense that will be out for the Steelers. Although I believe that betting on the preseason is a bit of a fool’s errand, I’ll back the team that needs to put a W up for its fan base. I’m taking the Lions +3 points at +100 as my first NFL pick of the season for Friday night.

NFL Pick: Lions +3 
Best Line Offered: at The Greek

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