The Detroit Lions are picked by absolutely no one to be relevant this season. The Lions are perennially 8-8, 7-9 or 6-10. Once, every decade or so, they put together a playoff team and lose in the first round. So, how do they start the season as a 2.5 point road favorite? The answer is, they play the Arizona Cardinals.
Sunday’s late game (4:35 pm ET) at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, pits the lowly Lions against the lowlier Cardinals. Even with all the usual pre-season hopes and dreams, the Cardinals and the Lions are both projected to finish dead last in their divisions. Though the Lions might appear to contend early in the season, the Cardinals are predicted to be fighting it out with the Miami Dolphins for the worst record in the entire league from opening day. All of which translates to the Detroit Lions being a 2.5 point favorite to open the season with a victory on the road.
Recent History of Detroit vs. Arizona
The Lions won 17-3 over Arizona last year at Ford Field in Detroit. The Lions also defeated the Cardinals in 2017 on the road in Arizona (35-23). Prior to that, Arizona rode a seven game winning streak over Detroit stretching back to 2006.
Early season games have an expectation of good (or bad) things to come. In this case, we have two franchises that, if not moving in opposite directions, are on very different courses. Detroit remains solidly Detroit, which is not much more than average. Arizona is hoping for a resurgence in the first year of a rebuild that might, just be a year or so too soon to, tell if they have the pieces in place to contend.
This Year, This Sunday
This year, the Cardinals are definitely rebuilding. No one is saying “tanking,” but the signs are there. Detroit, on the other hand, is in their perennial mode of being just-not-quite good enough. But, they are clearly good enough to be road favorites this week. Matthew Stafford has the arm and enough receivers to take advantage of an Arizona defense that, in 2018, was last against the run, and only slightly better against the pass. Plus, the Cardinals are changing up their pass-defense coverage under new defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph.
Arizona is also launching the Kyler Murray era on Sunday. Kyler Murray, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma All-American. Kyler Murray, superior athlete. He was drafted and signed by MLB’s Oakland Athletics.
The question is, can the swift-footed Murray confuse the Lions defense enough to pick up the points needed to win. Matthew Stafford is much more experienced and, on paper, the Lions are a more veteran team. But, much-hyped rookie quarterbacks have a way of launching spectacular careers in their first few games. They also have another tendency, which is to crash and burn if thrown into live action too soon.
This Sunday in Arizona will be a battle of two different quarterbacks. An excellent veteran with a lackluster team against the new, brash, young talent. The oddsmakers say take the seasoned veteran. But, a bet on the new kid plus 2.5 at home might be worth the risk.
More Unicorns in the Lion’s 2019 Season
Giving preseason odds on middle or late-season games is highly speculative, and often, not bookable until the actual week of the game. But, looking at the Lion’s full season, they have three other road games where they are currently pick-em, and could become road favorites before the books open for betting.
Those games are:
- Nov. 3 at LA Raiders
- Nov. 24 at Washington Redskins
- Dec. 22 at Denver Broncos
All of those odds will depend, of course, on how both teams perform in the early season, critical injuries, and potential rookie phenoms or even, miracle of miracles, another Detroit Lion unicorn. The Detroit Lions a favorite on the road, who would have thunk it?