Lions vs. Chiefs Betting Preview: Thursday Night Football picks, predictions and odds for Week 1

By Zachary Cohen  ( Senior Editor) 

September 7, 2023 01:57 PM

Lions vs. Chiefs preview, predictions and best bets

Every week, VSiN will be doing an in-depth dive on the week’s Thursday Night Football Game. In Week 1, that game happens to have the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Detroit Lions at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Yesterday, news trickled out that Travis Kelce’s status for the game is in question because of a knee injury he suffered in practice. Now the star tight end is officially out, as noted on our VSiN Injury Report for page. But this is still a game you should be excited about. The Chiefs are once again one of the best teams in the AFC, while the Lions look like a legitimate threat to win the NFC North. So, keep reading for our Chiefs vs. Lions preview, picks and predictions.

RELATED: Check out our Pro Picks page for NFL best bets from all of our VSiN analysts

Lions vs. Chiefs Spread

This spread opened with the Lions getting 6.5, but it’s all the way down to 4.5 now. So, the Kelce news has done a number on how the oddsmakers view this game. The reality is that this Chiefs team is very thin at the wide receiver position, so being without Kelce really leaves Patrick Mahomes with a depleted group of pass catchers. But head coach Andy Reid is a guy you can normally trust to put together an effective offensive game plan, and Kansas City does have a few guys that can step up. The Chiefs are high on second-year receiver Skyy Moore, and Kadarius Toney is a player that oozes talent. Perhaps we’ll see them as a bigger part of the offense than usual, and rookies Rashee Rice and Justyn Ross could get some opportunities right off the bat.

The biggest concern for the Chiefs might seem like the absence of Kelce, but they’re probably a little more worried about Chris Jones still being out. Jones is holding out for a new contract after a season in which he had 15.5 sacks and had the highest PFF grade out of all the league’s interior defenders. Against a Lions team that figures to have an elite offense this year, the Chiefs will miss his presence. Kansas City can’t afford to let Jared Goff sit there with a clean pocket and make throws. He will pick the Chiefs apart if that happens. But if Kansas City can generate some pressure on Goff, the quarterback could crumble. We have seen it before.

Overall, there is a lot working in Detroit’s favor heading into this game. But none of that will matter unless the Lions are a lot better defensively than they were last season — especially in the secondary. The Lions had the highest DADOT (average depth of target when targeted as a defender – Pro Football Reference) in football last season by a pretty wide margin. Teams were comfortable throwing all over Detroit, which isn’t what you want heading into a meeting with a Mahomes-led offense. If the Lions aren’t a lot sharper than they were last season, Mahomes will have a big game, regardless of who he’s throwing to. But Detroit did make some big offseason acquisitions in the secondary, bringing in defensive backs Cameron Sutton and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. They also used the 45th overall pick on Alabama corner Brian Branch. So, they’re counting on having a much better passing defense in 2023.

Lions vs. Chiefs Total 

Oddly enough, the Under is 54-31 in all the games Reid has coached as a home underdog with the Chiefs. The Under is also 7-3 in the nonconference games the Lions have played under Dan Campbell. So, while both of these teams have reputations as being high-scoring groups — and that is certainly warranted — don’t get suckered into expecting a high-scoring game just because of all the big names you’ll see out there for this one.

I actually do believe the Lions defense is bound to improve significantly this season, and I think we’ll see Detroit turn in a good effort against this undermanned Kansas City team. It’s also entirely possible that the Chiefs will run the ball a bit more than they originally planned with Kelce on the shelf. That would help make this a lower scoring game than we first thought when the schedule was announced.

It should also be noted that a majority of the bets on this game are on the Over, but the majority of the handle is on the Under and the total is moving down. That suggests that there’s sharp money on the Under here, and it’s never a bad idea to align yourself with the sharps.

Lions vs. Chiefs Best Bet

I’m a little nervous about betting against Reid in a season opener, as Kansas City is 5-0 straight-up and 4-1 against the spread since Mahomes became an opening-week starter for the Chiefs. Reid is also a coach that has thrived after bye weeks in the past, so he knows how to prepare for opponents when he has extra time to do so. But with Kelce lout for this game, I do think the Lions have a decent shot at slowing down the Chiefs passing game. I also think Jones’ presence will be missed big time defensively. Not only because they need to get bodies in the backfield, but also because there will be a lot of pressure on Kansas City’s defensive backs if Goff has too much time to throw. Amon-Ra St. Brown is hard enough to cover on good days. He'll be impossible to cover if there's no pressure on the quarterback. 

Bet: Lions +4.5

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