NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions For Lions vs. Broncos: NFL Expert Betting Preview For Week 14
Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Jared Goff
|Time||4:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds via Gun Lake. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
Fresh off their first win of the season, the Detroit Lions travel to Denver where they’ll find the 6-6 Broncos, who are still in contention in an extremely tight AFC playoff race.
The Broncos are one of the healthier teams in the league, with only two players not practicing in full on Wednesday. The Lions, on the other hand, are missing star running back D’Andre Swift. They’re also reportedly dealing with a flu outbreak that has sidelined seven players, including starting quarterback Jared Goff. Will they have enough firepower to keep it close?
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Lions vs. Broncos Injury Report
- RB D’Andre Swift (shoulder): Out
- OLB Julian Okwara (ankle): Out
- LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder): Out
- TE T.J. Hockenson (hand): Doubtful
Note: There are 10 players listed as “questionable” due to the Lions’ flu outbreak. See the full list here.
- OLD Bradley Chubb (shoulder/ankle): Questionable
- DE Shelby Harris (ankle): Questionable
- RB Melvin Gordon (hip): Questionable
Lions vs. Broncos Matchup
|Lions Offense||DVOA Rank||Broncos Defense|
|Lions Defense||DVOA Rank||Broncos Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Lions Must Sustain Long Drives
We know how the Lions like to play on offense. Ideally, they’re a run-first, smash-mouth team. Since head coach Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties, they’ve been one of the run-heaviest teams in the league.
That approach switched a bit last week though, in a tight game and without starter Swift. Goff attempted 41 passes, and fared reasonably well with a 7.2 yards-per-attempt (YPA) mark on the game.
The running game was fine without Swift, as Jamaal Williams ran 17 times for 71 yards. What they miss, though, is Swift’s big-play ability. Williams’ long run on the game was 11 yards, with his lone catch going for nine. Without the ability to make big plays, Detroit will have to sustain longer drives against Denver’s defense.
Defensively, Detroit ranks 28th in overall DVOA and has particularly struggled against the pass. The Lions have played reasonably well as of late, allowing only 18 points per game across their last four.
Of course, that was against Mason Rudolph, Andy Dalton and Baker Mayfield. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings put up 27 points, despite not having Dalvin Cook and (for part of the game) Adam Thielen available.
Point is, this defense is still bad, recent results not withstanding.
Broncos Expected More Out Of Defense
The Broncos have been an interesting team to follow this season. They’ve had big wins against tough competition — including the Chargers and Cowboys. Despite that, they’re still 6-6 and in last place in the AFC West. Of course, their tough strength of schedule has something to do with that record. Playing six divisional games against teams with .500 or better records is a challenge.
Teddy Bridgewater has been fine this year, which is all the Broncos really need or probably expected from him. Their offense ranks 13th in passing DVOA. Crucially, he’s also protected the ball. Bridgewater ranks in the top 10 in the league in interception rate, while losing only one fumble. (For comparison, Goff has lost nine.)
Denver’s two-headed rushing attack of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams has played well, too. Denver ranks seventh in yards per rush attempt on the season. The offense should have no problem moving the ball against a Lions front that ranks bottom-six in defensive line yards.
On the other hand, Denver’s defense has been somewhat of a letdown this season. Preseason expectations had to be higher than the 20th-ranked unit. The Broncos’ pass rush is still solid however, ranking ninth in adjusted sack rate. Goff is one of the league’s worst quarterbacks when pressured, so if Denver can get to him it will be a long day for the Lions.
Of course, Denver traded away perennial standout Von Miller following Week 7, which is a hit to the pass rush. Detroit also (should) have its full offensive line starting this week, so I don’t see that as a major issue.
Lions vs. Broncos Predictions, Picks
After opening at 7.5, the spread here has jumped as high as 10.5 at some books. Part of that is based around the Lions’ flu outbreak — both starting offensive guards and quarterback Goff are among those afflicted.
That puts us in a tough situation as bettors since the Lions’ spread is a clear value if the Lions are able to get healthy for Sunday’s game. Of course, once we know that they’re good to go, the line will likely move with it (check real-time NFL odds here).
Additionally, while the Broncos are fairly healthy, both of the players on their side who’ve missed practice this week are key contributors to the defensive front. The Broncos were comfortable trading away Von Miller partially due to the return of Bradley Chubb from injury. Shelby Harris is the Broncos’ top-graded run defender (among linemen) and has also contributed three sacks on the season. While both should play, it’s likely that neither is at full strength this week.
That obviously benefits Detroit’s offense. Goff has some of the most dramatic splits of any quarterback between his performance with a clean pocket vs. when he’s pressured. Therefore, injuries to the Broncos’ front seven is a big deal.
Therefore, I’m relatively bullish on Detroit’s offense this week. Goff returned on Thursday to a full practice, which is big in and of itself. It’s also a good sign that the other players with the flu are close to returning.
At 8-4 against the spread (ATS), the Lions are one of the best teams at keeping games close. Ten points is a big spread given the mediocrity of the Broncos offense, so we’ll take the points.
Pick: Lions +10.5 | Bet to: +10
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