Originally formed in 1930 as the the Portsmouth Spartans, the team was sold to a radio executive in 1934 who moved them to Detroit and adopted the Lions nickname. The team shared facilities with the University of Detroit and the Detroit Tigers before finally getting their own stadium in 1975. The Pontiac Silverdome was used until 2001 when it was replaced by they current home of the Lions, Ford Field.
While the team does have four NFL championships, the last one was in 1957, giving them the second longest title drought, behind only the Arizona Cardinals. They also have fairly long division title drought, having not won the a division since 1993. As a team with a long history, the Lions were members of many defunct divisions, including the Western Division, National Conference, Western Conference, Central Division, and the NFC Central. They have been members of the NFC North since 2002, and again, are still looking for their first division title.
Changing hands several times throughout it’s early years, the franchise was bought by the Ford family in 1961 and has remained there since. When William Clay Ford Sr. died in 2014, his widow, Martha inherited controlling interest of the team. She recently passed her duties as owner to her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp.
Former Patriots coordinator Matt Patricia will start his third season as the head coach, Darrell Bevell will be in his second as the offensive play caller, and Cory Undlin will embark on his maiden season as the defensive coordinator. After winning only nine games over his first two seasons, Patricia may be on the hot seat quickly if this season doesn’t start to give management a little bit of hope for the immediate future.
The Lions have 21 former players and coaches in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with a great majority of them having spent most of their careers in Detroit. The roll call stretches from legends of the past like QB Bobby Layne and DT Alex Karras to all-time great and fan favorite, running back Barry Sanders.
Coming off of a three win season does have it’s perks come draft time! The Lions were able to take a look at any and all holes on the roster and take a top end player to help fill one. The ended up on Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick. They also picked up Georgia’s star running back, D’Andre Swift early in the 2nd round. They used their other seven selections to build up some depth on the offensive and defensive lines as well as another running back and late flier on a wide receiver.
2020 will mark the 12th season of Matt Stafford at the helm of the Lions offense. Joined by Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay and T.J. Hockenson, scoring through the air might be a forte of this team (if everyone stays healthy). The defense will be missing defensive leader Darius Slay after he was traded to the Eagles but, added several free agents such as Desmond Trufant and Jamie Collins to help bolster that side of the ball.
Some early actions in the markets has driven down the Lions prices, but they still remain the least likely team to win their division again this season. DraftKings sportsbook lists them at +550 to take down the NFC North in 2020. They also price them as a 60/1 longshot to win the Super Bowl and 30/1 to win the NFC. Their win total is set at just 6.5 games this year, with the over juiced to -143, the under at +118. You can also find them at +245 to break their three year playoff drought and qualify this fall.
Detroit Lions 2020 Betting Profile
In late September of 2019, the Lions had just completed a surprising 27-24 road win in Philadelphia. Matt Stafford hit Marvin Jones for a 12 yard score in the 4th quarter and they held on from there. That put the Lions at 2-0-1 on the season and optimism was starting to build. They only won one more game the rest of the year.
Part of that can be blamed on Stafford going down with an injury in early November, but that wasn’t the only issue. The defense also fell short of the mark, allowing opponents to score north of 25 points in half of their games. The Lions finished at 3-12-1 and missed the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive year.
Possibly the lone bright spot in another lost season was the continued emergence of wide receiver Kenny Golladay. After posting a 1000 yard season as a second year pro in 2018, Golladay topped 1100 yards in 2019. He also led the league with 11 receiving touchdowns.
The biggest movement this offseason for Detroit comes in their defensive backfield. The relationship between the team and star cornerback Darius Slay had soured, so they traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles for a pair of draft picks. They addressed the departure in two ways. First, they signed Desmond Trufant away from the Falcons in free agency. The Lions also used their 3rd overall pick in the draft on Ohio State standout Jeff Okudah. Those two will anchor a revamped pass defense. The Lions also brought in linebacker Jamie Collins from the Patriots.
On the offensive side of the ball, tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai signed a 5 year deal worth 50 million dollars as the Lions attempt to finally figure out their long suffering rushing attack. Only 3 times since the retirement of Barry Sanders has a Detroit rusher gone over 1000 yards, and it hasn’t happened since Reggie Bush posted 1006 yards in 2013. For that to change this year, the coaching staff will need to figure out which of their options they like best. They drafted D’Andre Swift out of Georgia in the 2nd round this year, but Kerryon Johnson is still in place as the incumbent starter. Johnson showed promise in 2018 by averaging 5.4 yards per carry as a rookie, but last year injuries slowed him down. When he was on the field, his average fell to 3.6 yards per carry.
If things fall the way they are planned for the Lions offense this year, they will get 16 games from Stafford, his connection with Golladay will take the next step, and Swift will emerge as the star in the backfield the team covets. Stafford’s yardage total prop, according to BetMGM Sportsbook, is set at 4,150.5 at -110 in either direction. Last year he was on pace for just under 5000 yards before he went down with his injury and from 2011 to 2017, he surpassed at least 4200 yards every year. However, he only went for 3777 yards in 2018 when he did play a full 16 games. That said, this number is basically asking if you think he’ll be healthy all year.
If he is, with Golladay entrenched as a true number 1 threat, he should go over the mark. Despite his reputation for being somewhat brittle, last year was the first time Stafford missed a start since 2010. Stafford’s MVP odds sit at 50-1, right alongside QB’s like Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan and Josh Allen. I don’t feel there’s value in that number seeing as those other signal callers all play for teams expected to be better than Detroit.
Golladay is primed for an even bigger year. As mentioned, he topped 1100 yards last year and led the league in receiving touchdowns despite having 2 backup quarterbacks throwing to him for half the year. You can bet the over/under 1000.5 receiving yards at -110, which seems like a layup. The one thing to consider with Golladay is volume. He only caught 65 passes last year, which is a low number for a 1000 yard receiver. But if Stafford plays the full year, that number should rise and Golladay should be a cinch to go over. You can also get Golladay repeating as the league’s touchdown reception leader at +1800. It’s not a bad bet if Stafford plays 16 games. The Lions will be behind a lot and, therefore, throwing a lot.
The cloudiness of the running back situation is evident with the betting numbers on D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. Swift’s number is 675.5 and Johnson is at 625.5, with both over and under bets for both players available at -110. That murkiness screams under for both players. Swift is a 2nd rounder, so they’re going to give him a good look, but he’s dealing with a slow-to-heal injury to start the year. Johnson will be the starter week 1, but that may not last long, unless he comes out of the gates on fire. If we stick with the premise that Detroit will throw a lot this year, I think the under is the play for both Swift and Johnson.
The Detroit Lions should be better this year as long as Stafford stays healthy. That said, their win total number of 6.5 (according to DraftKings) is tricky. They play in a strong division where the Vikings and Packers both made the playoffs last year. Those teams could regress a bit and the Bears are (always) in quarterback limbo, so there are some wins to be had. They also get a 4th place schedule in the NFC while being matched up with the AFC South. It’s not a cake walk, but not all that daunting either. I lean toward the Lions being able to get to at least 7 wins, so I’d suggest the over.
The Lions are +550 to win the NFC North (DraftKings), which isn’t a terrible number considering the factors just mentioned. With Aaron Rodgers potentially in his final year in Green Bay and the Bears just trying to make a pick between two mediocre options in Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, it’s not a ridiculous idea to think the Lions could surprise this year. Their Super Bowl odds are +6000, only worth betting if you are true fan looking for some fun.
Detroit Lions 2020 prediction: 8-8, 3rd place in the NFC North.