NFL Live Betting Week 1: Lions vs. Chiefs on Thursday Night Football Live Bets
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images. Pictured: The Chiefs celebrating a touchdown vs the Lions, as we break down the best live betting scenarios on Thursday Night Football.
Temperatures are dropping, the kids are back in school — and we have NFL games to live bet on. Our seven-month stretch of collective darkness is finally over and the most wonderful time of year is upon us.
Live betting at the start of the season is somewhat of a challenge, as our methods depend heavily on coaching tendencies. Our pace-based analysis relies on certain teams and coaches to predictably behave differently than others, but there's a lot of unknowns when teams have new coaching staffs or key player personnel.
Fortunately, the season opener features two teams with nearly 100% coaching carryover, and returning quarterbacks. While the absence of Travis Kelce could impact the Chiefs play calling to an extent, the talent at quarterback is great enough that I'm not anticipating them to break tendency too much.
This one lines up nicely with a pair of scenarios both pointing in clear directions. Let's dive in.
NFL Live Betting Scenarios to Watch For on Thursday Night Football
So far, we haven't quite had a prime live betting situation arise in this one. Yes, the Chiefs have a seven-point lead, which would seem to fit one of our scenarios below, especially since they're getting the ball. But the current live total is too close to the pregame over/under for this to be a clear "Bet" situation.
We'll leave the door open to get something in if that changes, but right now, it's hard to see 32 more points with the Lions playing like this and Kelce missing.
With that said, here is how we broke down the live betting scenarios for Chiefs vs Lions before kickoff.
Overs With a Chiefs Lead
Rarely do we get games that set up so ideally, with both teams behaving consistently but in opposite directions. Kansas City is one of the more steady teams in terms of pace, playing at a slightly above-average rate in all scoreboard scenarios. That means they're considerably quicker than most teams with a lead, but somewhat slower when playing from behind.
Which makes sense given their explosive offense. There's no need to panic with Mahomes at quarterback, as they have enough confidence in his abilities to score when needed. On the flip side, he's too talented of a player to slow things down with a lead — it makes more sense to rack up points than it does to kill the clock.
Conversely, the Lions played about 1.5 seconds faster than league average when games were close or they were leading. When they fell behind by seven or more, they were nearly three seconds quicker than the average team. That worked out to playing at the 20th-fastest pace when leading, but the sixth-fastest pace when trailing last year.
In the somewhat likely scenario the Chiefs go up by more than a touchdown, I'll be looking to bet the over — ideally at a number better than the pregame line of 52. Timing is important here, of course. While we want the best number possible, we want to make sure the scenario we're targeting remains the case for at least a few drives.
In the first half, I'll be looking for spots where the Chiefs are up at least a touchdown with the ball and the total is under 50, or they're up multiple scores with Lions possession. Around half time, it depends on who receives the second half kickoff as well as the current score.
Unders With a Lions Lead
All of the analysis above also points to betting the under if the Lions take the lead. Ideally, sportsbooks hold the spread and/or moneyline steadier than the total, which would imply Kansas City needing a bigger score to win, thus elevating the total. The Chiefs ranked dead last in pace when trailing by more than a touchdown last season — though they ran fewer than 100 plays in those conditions.
The Lions would be well served to keep Mahomes on the sidelines if and when they get out in front here. With Kansas City missing its top defensive lineman — and Detroit having an elite offensive line — the Lions should be able to run the ball effectively. I'm also anticipating the Lions to be better in pass defense than run defense, given their investments in the secondary this offseason.
We're targeting 55 or so as a total to bet under if the Lions go up seven or more. This one is a bit more flexible than the overs, as Kelce's absence could mean the Chiefs offense is more limited than anticipated. If the Lions get the opening kick, score, and the total jumps more than a few points — we're pulling the trigger then.
If neither team is able to gain much control here, this one becomes less attractive from a betting standpoint. Based on last year's data, this game will play a bit less than one second quicker than an average NFL game while close. That's balanced out by the high pregame total, leaving little in the way of edges.
Fortunately, it's pretty likely one team or another takes a solid lead at some point. If they don't, though, sometimes the best bet is not to make one.
How We Approach Live Betting in General
The NFL is perfect for live betting, with the pauses between plays providing plenty of time to get bets in. This season, I’ve built a model to project the pace of play under a variety of in-game scenarios. These include first vs. second half, as well as which team is leading or when the game is within a touchdown.
The primary benefit is for betting totals. If the game is going to be faster or slower than was assumed pregame, the application is obvious. Faster-paced games tend to produce more points.
Player props also present some interesting opportunities. Sportsbooks are offering a variety of live player props, and games that are faster or slower than expected create obvious opportunities.
Take a look around various books before placing bets, though. There tends to be more variation between shops in live markets than there is pregame.