NFL Picks: Fade Lions at Home & Back Broncos to Cover -3 on Sunday Night Football

Kevin Stott

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 12:57 AM UTC

Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2015 12:57 AM UTC

The Broncos and QB Peyton Manning head to Detroit to face the Lions as 2-point favorites in the NFL odds in their second straight Road primetime game of the early NFL Regular Season on Sunday night.

The big question now—Tuesday—for gamblers is the status and availability of Lions QB Matthew Stafford with most sportsbooks currently having the game off the board. When the line returns, maybe after Wednesday’s weekly schedule team news conference, and Stafford can’t play, that may mean Dan Orlovsky at QB for Detroit and a different handicap. So what’s the best approach with Detroit possibly playing a hurting QB in a must-win situation against one of the best Defenses in the NFL? Let’s think about it and make a logical NFL pick with what we know this early in the week.


Odds Overview
Denver Broncos vs. Detroit Lions [Monday 01:30] (NBC, 8:25 p.m. ET/5:25 p.m. PT): Ford Field in Detroit is the site of this inter-conference meeting between the host Detroit Lions (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) and the visiting Denver Broncos (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) in this intriguing Week 3 primetime Sunday Night Football affair from Motown. The Advanced Line in this game was a Pick ‘Em, while Monday’s Opener was set at Broncos -3 in most places, but has been taken off the board (for the time being, Tuesday) by most sportsbooks here in Las Vegas and Offshore as the official status of Detroit QB Matt Stafford awaits (and is expected by, or on Wednesday). CG Technology does still have the game posted, with the Broncos -3 and -120 vigorish, and the Total was 42½, although those odds are also down everywhere because of Stafford’s status. The Lions starting QB—who is dealing with Rib problems—said he would address his Injury (more below) in Wednesday’s usual news conference.


Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos (4-4 SU on Road in 2014) and QB Peyton Manning (73-58-5 ATS on Road) struggled to get wins in Week 1 at Home against the Baltimore Ravens and in Week 2 on the Road at the Kansas City Chiefs, but they did, also covering the Point Spread in both games. So much has been made about Denver trying to become a more Rush-oriented team under new Head Coach Gary Kubiak, with the narrative—or maybe the Truth—being that Manning’s arm isn’t quite as strong as it once was and to try to get another solid year out of the 39-year-old legendary veteran, running the football more would be the easy answer. After Weeks 1 and 2, we see, as usual, that there are no easy answers.

But a couple of thoughts: 1—The Ravens and Chiefs are pretty good Defensive teams; and, 2—Learning new things always takes Time, and to expect Manning to immediately adapt to this new Kubiak scheme, or to judge him after the Preseason and one or two Regular Season games is pretty short-sighted. Did you give up on teaching your dog to shake your hand after two tries? Anyway, Manning’s struggles at the position in the Preseason—especially to mount drives that resulted in points (Manning went at least 21 consecutives drives on Offense without a TD)—and his decision-making are real issues if you’ve watched the games. But the Second Half against Kansas City will surely help in the Confidence Department, and maybe a combination Kubiak-Manning Offense will evolve from the 2-0 Ashes for the Broncos? Only in the jaded NFL can we all be overly critical of a 2-0 team. Can you hear me Dallas? Atlanta? Cincinnati? Arizona? The Jets? Carolina? Is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can hear me. You won’t be 2-0 for long...

Anyway, the Broncos (14/1 to win Super Bowl, PaddyPower) do have a great Defense to keep them in games as the experiments on Offense continue, but losing TE Julius Thomas (Free Agent, Jaguars) and WR Wes Welker (Concussion, possible retirement) as well as all the players the team couldn’t re-sign in order to pay Peyton will take some time to deal with, but with the dynamic WR duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, new Free Agent TE Owen Daniels (Ravens) and RBs Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson, don’t sleep on this Offense as soon we’ll all be talking and writing and chirping like the sparrows about how good they look. Time. Injury-wise, Denver (12-5 SU, 8-9 ATS in 2014) comes into this game pretty healthy with DE Kenny Anunike (Knee), LB Lerentee McCray (Groin) and S Omar Bolden (Foot) all listed as Questionable while DE Derek Wolfe (Eligible Week 5) is suspended and T Ryan Clady (Knee) sits on the Injured-Reserve List. Bolden’s absence would hurt some as of his prowess at KR.


Detroit Lions
The whole Detroit Lions (11-6 SU, 8-9 ATS in 2014) season seems to be revolving around the status and availability of starting QB Matthew Stafford (17-21-1 ATS at Home), but the feeling is now (on Tuesday) that the Lions may already know from an X-Ray of Stafford’s Ribs and Chest on Monday that he might not be able to go here against the Broncos, or that the team doesn’t want to risk further injury. The problem here? Detroit is 0-2, thanks to Road losses at San Diego and at Minnesota and Stafford’s pain and mobility problems were evident in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis. On Monday, Stafford went through the walk-through with the starting Offense and he refused to comment on his potential Injury, saying he would address it at the team’s normal Wednesday news conference. But on the radio program “The Mitch Albom Show” on Monday Stafford said, “I feel OK. I’ll let everybody figure (out what the X-rays showed) with Coach Caldwell in the next couple days. But at this point I’m feeling all right.” I know when I say, "I’m feeling OK,” it usually means that I’m feeling crappy. Read into Stafford’s comment as you will. He may just be an early week Mental Chess Piece aimed at Broncos Head Coach Kubiak. Pawn to Rook 4. Or something like that.

In Week 1, the Lions blew a 21-3 lead in San Diego and ended up losing to the Chargers, 33-28, while in Week 2, Detroit lost 26-16 at Minneapolis to the Vikings in their first NFC North clash of the season. Besides Stafford’s Injury and the losses of star NT Ndamukong Suh (Free Agent, Dolphins) and DL Nick Fairley (Free Agent, Rams), Head Coach Jim Caldwell (8-11 ATS) and the Lions (100/1 to win Super Bowl, Ladbrokes) also have to worry about Injuries to Caraun Reid (Ankle) and OLB DeAndre Levy (Hip)—possibly the most talented weakside OLB in the NFC—who are both listed as Questionable as well as two CBs (Alex Carter, Chris Owens) still on the Injured-Reserve List. Having a Home Opener with either a hobbled and tentative QB (Stafford) or a backup (Orlovsky) trying to get the ball to WRs Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate downfield will probably mean much heavier beer sales in the city of Detroit from approximately 1:30 until 4 p.m. EDT.


Recent Relevant Series Trends and Game Expectations
Of note here, Denver will be playing the second of back-to-back Road games and will be playing in a Time Zone (EDT) two hours behind the team’s normal Body Clocks (MDT). The last time these two teams played was in 2011 when the Lions upset the Broncos, 45-10 as 3-point favorites in Denver, while the last time these two met here in Detroit in 2007, the Lions crunched the Broncos, 44-7, also as 3-point favorites. Trend-wise, the Lions are 4-1 ATS the L5 against Denver but this is a fairly tricky game to handicap with the better and more confident team with the better Defense and the better QB (Manning) facing a cornered 0-2 animal in their Home Opener (Lions 7-1 at Home in 2014) either with a hobbled (Stafford) or second-string QB (Orlovsky) in an indoor stadium—not at Altitude— in all its’ 72° glory and in a must-win situation.

Nothing big, Pedro. Better not bring the kids. And if so, teach them what an Orlovsky is. The Point Spread here speaks volumes, and with Denver coming into this game with 9 days Rest, a perfect 2-0 record, more Confidence than it’s had in the last two months, and it really seems like Denver is the call, and that -3 now showing at CGT Technology may seem great when the line reopens later.

The Under may also be worth consideration when the Total is re-released for this game, and it seems the safe thinking here is to probably expect Orlovsky to start at QB for the Lions and the NFL odds to head toward (Broncos) -4 and maybe more on the eventual news of Stafford not playing. If Stafford is indeed out here, Detroit will probably try to slow this game down and keep the football out of Manning’s hands, meaning a lower-scoring affair than a Stafford-Manning shootout indoors with all those great receivers would see. Best guess is Orlovsky starts, the Lions know it and getting the Broncos as near (minus) 3 would be a good idea early in the week for this primetime Sunday Night Football affair on NBC. Either way, the Top 5 team should find a way to get by and cover against the fading Lions, who may have peaked last season (11-5 SU). 

Predicted Final Score: Denver Broncos 24 Detroit Lions 17

NFL Pick: Broncos -3 -120 (CG Technology)

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