Calling all bettors! After nearly reaching the postseason for the first time in six years, the Detroit Lions are a team on the move (upward, not downward). How dramatically might they improve in 2023? And more pressingly, how will free agency and the upcoming NFL draft impact their title hopes? The following betting odds are based on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Detroit Lions Super Bowl 58 Odds and Futures
Last February’s early odds for Super Bowl 57 offered clues on what sportsbooks were thinking and how that wove into the thinking of the broader betting market.
For example, the Kansas City Chiefs were the favorite (+650 odds) to this year’s Super Bowl, while the Buffalo Bills were No. 2. Not too shabby as far as year-long predictions go.
But the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers were Nos. 3 and 4, respectively — though, in fairness, Davante Adams’ status in Green Bay remained unclear at that point. The Tennessee Titans (No. 9) and Denver Broncos (No. 10) clearly underwhelmed. The Eagles weren’t even in the top third.
Naturally, Detroit was nowhere in sight, and by the eve of Week 1, they had the eighth-worst odds (+12000). We now know how good they really were, and how much better they might become next season. This bullishness is reflected in their current Super Bowl 58 odds (+2800), which are tied for 10th-best in the league.
As we assess if bettors should lean into these odds, let’s examine a few key takeaways from the Lions’ 2022 campaign.
D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and Other 2022 Season Takeaways
Before jumping into Detroit’s fascinating, high-ceiling offense, I want to briefly highlight their area of greatest need. Their Achilles’ heel. Their tragic flaw. Their fatal weakness. [Insert more synonyms here.]
Their defense remains a work in progress, and that’s putting things mildly. They surrendered the fifth-most points per game, the third-most passing yards, and the third-most yards per carry. In particular, their run defense took a massive step back from its middling performance in 2021.
However … this unit is stacked with talented youth. No. 2 overall draft pick Aidan Hutchinson anchored a collection of rookie defenders that included second-rounder Josh Paschal (who missed seven contests), third-rounder Kerby Joseph, and sixth-rounders Malcolm Rodriguez and James Houston.
Yes, five rookies who played anywhere from “good” to “outstanding” in a rebuilding defense with nowhere to go but up. And with two top-18 picks in this year’s draft, as well as two second-rounders, they’re poised to fill more defensive holes and turn a massive corner.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. In 2022, they started 1-6 in large part because of a defense that gave up a whopping 32.1 points per game while forcing only six turnovers.
What happened in their final 10 games as the unit began to gel? An 8-2 record, 20.2 points per game surrendered, and 16 forced turnovers. Yeah, that’s a sizable difference. As great as their offense was (more on that in a moment), we cannot ignore a defensive turnaround that — assuming it continues into 2023 — could make them into a top-10 unit.
Now, as for the offense, we can point to a few things that might or might not impact their 2023 prospects. Jared Goff certainly solidified his standing as a franchise QB, at least for one more season. And the young duo of Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams should take another collective step forward, with St. Brown racking up another 1,000-yard campaign and a healthy Williams a good bet to do the same.
With T.J. Hockenson long gone and no obvious No. 3 WR on the roster, we might see the team lean a little more on James Mitchell. Or they could make a splash in free agency and the draft to assemble one of the most fearsome receiving corps in the league.
One pressure point concerns their backfield. I understand the excitement surrounding Jamaal Williams’ 17-TD outburst, and I recognize D’Andre Swift (when healthy) remains one of the most dynamic RBs in the game. At their best, these two give Detroit everything they need.
But Swift is entering the final year of his rookie contract, having already missed 20% of his team’s contests, while playing at less than 100% in many more. He’s a “we’ll take what we can get from him” running back. In other words, if this squad has Super Bowl aspirations (as they should), then Swift is an unreliable asset for when the games matter most.
As for Williams, what a great story. Also, let’s not bet based on emotion. He enjoyed a perfect storm of success — all earned, of course, but not easily replicable in 2023. The often-injured RB somehow played all 17 games. After not exceeding 153 carries in a season, he rushed 262 times — a mammoth usage shift for a guy unaccustomed to heavy loads.
And inside the opposing 5-yard line, he netted 29 carries — even more than Goff’s 27 pass attempts from that area. For context, the backfield of the high-scoring Chiefs collectively earned only 18 carries inside the 5-yard line, while Patrick Mahomes threw it 30 times.
It’s highly unusual for a non-bell cow to play such an outsized role near the goal line. Williams converted 13 rushes from the 1- or 2-yard line into scores. Clearly, the Lions trust him up close. The big question is whether he’ll maintain the durability and productivity needed to continue converting for this ascending franchise.
2023 Offseason Moves
As referenced above, oddsmakers trust that the Lions are a legitimate contender, especially as they head into the 2023 offseason. Not yet among the elites, but they are certainly a team on the cusp of greatness if they continue to improve in 2023. How might free agency and the upcoming draft impact their odds?
NFL Free Agency
March 14 Update: It’s notable that Detroit signed CBs Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Mosely. As referenced above, these should be the first of many defensive acquisitions for a franchise that’s a few defensive pieces (and possibly one offensive playmaker) away from making a serious Super Bowl run.
Their odds of winning Super Bowl 58 remain at +2800. I think the market needs to recognize what this franchise is doing, and what they still have capacity to do. They’re on track to hit +2000 to +2200 by this summer. If they don’t, what a great buying opportunity.
March 15 Update: Signing David Montgomery is a big deal. Ignore his career 3.9 yards per carry. The 25-year-old is consistently among the league leaders in broken-tackle rate, and his three-down-back abilities are a better fit alongside the often-injured Swift.
The move coincides with a jump to +2500 odds of winning the next Super Bowl — tied for eighth best. And they’re still just getting started.
March 20 Update: Another coup for Detroit, as they sign C.J. Gardner-Johnson to a one-year deal. It’s the clearest indication that this franchise is in win-now mode. This marks their third notable defensive signing of the offseason, shoring up a relatively young unit that began improving dramatically at the midpoint last season. With the draft still more than a month away, the Lions are my top non-favorite team to win Super Bowl 58.
In the coming weeks, we’ll update this section with breaking news on other key Lions arrivals and departures through free agency and trades, how it impacts their Super Bowl odds, and how it might inform our decision to bet on them to win it all.
In early May, we’ll update this section on key Lions draft picks and UDFA signings, with an eye toward any instant-impact players who could help catapult them into serious Super Bowl consideration.
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