The Detroit Lions make the trip out to the west coast, not for a sunny California vacation, but for a meeting with the San Diego Chargers. These are teams in similar positions, in the sense that there is the expectation that they have to win now. Nothing less than a big playoff run would be disappointing for both squads. Both the Lions and Chargers expect to win this afternoon, as 3-point favorites, we can note that the Chargers are favorites by 3 points because of their designation as the home team. If this game was in Detroit then the Lions would be 3 point favorites. A neutral field, we would have a pick ‘em. A lot was made of the contract Philip Rivers received in the offseason, a contract worth $84 million over four years. The Chargers may not even be in San Diego at the end of his contract, but the expectations are to win in these four years. By the end of his contract he’ll be out of his prime years. He has had opportunities to go to a World Series, but this never rises to the occasion when it comes down to being clutch.
A loss against the Lions in week 1 would only reinforce that this team isn’t ready to become clutch. Yes, it’s just week 1, but these are the games you have to win to at least make people think you can be that team. People are always hypercritical of week 1 performances and I don’t think it would be any different here with the Chargers. Although, a poor showing from the Lions is going to send the same message to fans in Detroit. It’s a big game for both in the first game of the season. The Lions after suffering a bitter defeat in the playoffs to the Dallas Cowboys will look to make another playoff appearance. This time, though, actually winning a game or two. It is the second time they’ve been to the playoffs in the Matthew Stafford era, losing previously to the New Orleans Saints in the first round.
The Lions are loaded on offense, on paper anyway. Last season was sort of a weird kind of year for them. They looked to be moving the ball effectively on numerous occasions but drives would routinely stall up. Note that the Lions were 19th in the NFL in yards per game and averaged only 20.1 points per game. Inexcusable for a team that is loaded with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate in the receiving core. The Lions look to be the offense they should be. The have a tough one to open the season, having to travel all the way out to San Diego for their opener. Find my pick below for this matchup.
Detroit Lions vs. San Diego Chargers NFL Pick
Lions +3 (-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Lions vs. Chargers Pick:
The Lions are going to need to score more points to succeed this season. With the defense presumably going to regress without Ndamukong Suh, the offense is going to need to make up for his loss. The defensive line is going to look much different without him. The Lions did acquire Haloti Ngata to replace Suh in the middle of the line. But Ngata is entering the twilight of his career, and certainly is not the same as having Suh there. Additionally, the Lions also lost Nick Fairley to free agency. There are two key cogs to the Lions’ defensive line a year ago and two first-round selections. I foresee the Lions giving up points this year. Their defensive backfield looked so good was due in part because of the defensive line. I suspect some opportunities to open up downfield for the Chargers in this game. The Lions will be thin at linebacker in this game as well. DeAndre Levy who I often say is the most underrated defender in the NFL will be sitting this one out. That is great news for Philip Rivers.
The Lions added to their offense in the draft by taking Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah, a running back out of Nebraska, showcased his nimble feet in the preseason and showed why so many people are high on this guy. Abdullah has the ability to catch the rock out of the backfield, providing what I think is an upgrade from Reggie Bush in the backfield. I expect big things out of former first-round pick Eric Ebron. Tight ends usually get off to slow starts in the NFL. Ebron might be another one of those late bloomers. Without Levy on defense though, I do worry for the Lions in this spot. I was expecting a total of 48 or 48.5 so the total does look attractive at 46. There should be some points to be had in this game. I’m taking the OVER 46.
PICK: OVER 46 POINTS (-110)