Editor's note: This story was updated following the news of Travis Kelce's injury on Wednesday.
Lions (0-0) at Chiefs (0-0)
Spread: Chiefs -6.5
Weather: Potential for rain, hot temperatures
Date/Time: Thursday, Sept. 7 at 8:20 p.m.
The Line Report
The line for this contest has settled at Kansas City Chiefs -6.5, with a few brief stops at Chiefs -7. On the other hand, the total has gradually risen from the low 50s up to its current mark of 54.5.
If Chiefs star DT Chris Jones joins the team for opening day, that could have an impact on the total. If that happens, we’ll discuss Jones’ return in our free discord.
Chiefs Offense vs. Lions Defense
|Kansas City Offense
|Points per Game: 29.2 (1st)
|Points Allowed: 25.1 (28th)
|Passing Yards: 297.8 (1st)
|Passing Yards: 245.8 (30th)
|Rushing Yards: 115.9 (20th)
|Rushing Yards: 146.5 (29th)
|Interceptions: 12 (22nd)
|Interceptions: 12 (19th)
|Fumbles Lost: 11 (7th)
|Fumble Recoveries: 10 (10th)
|O-Line Rank: 7th
|D-Line Rank: 21st
Patrick Mahomes is one of the best pressure managers in NFL history. He’s supported by one of, if not the best, interior offensive lines in the league. While the interior is rock solid, Kansas City will start two new offensive tackles this season.
New RT Jawaan Taylor could be an upgrade. Former Buccaneers LT Donovan Smith is a question mark after a disappointing 2022 season. Unless Smith returns to form, Mahomes’ blindside is vulnerable against a young, ascending Detroit Lions pass rush. If the Chiefs’ offense underperforms in this contest, a rough outing from Smith is a likely culprit.
Travis Kelce suffered a hyper-extended knee in practice on Tuesday, so he’ll likely miss this contest. Kelce is the centerpiece of Patrick Mahomes’ passing attack, significantly changing what the Chiefs can do on offense.
Noah Gray already sees notable playing time as an inline tight end, but he’ll no doubt see role expansion in Kelce’s absence. However, do not treat Gray as a one-for-one fill-in at tight end because Kelce sees most of his snaps in the slot and on the boundary. There is no complete replacement for Kelce.
Skyy Moore, who was already in a strong position in this matchup, should also see an uptick in volume. Marquez Valdes-Scantling saw a ton of playing time last year, but he’s always been more of a spike game player. He could see an uptick in targets in Kelce’s absence.
Kadarius Toney was already positioned to see limited action, but he’s targeted at a high rate when he’s on the field. The situation shouldn’t change much for Toney.
The Lions gave up the second-most receiving yards per game to opposing wide receivers last season. They were particularly torched in the slot, yielding the most fantasy points per game to slot receivers.
Mahomes won last year’s MVP with one of football's weakest wide receiver groups. Kansas City still has a questionable wide receiver group that lacks a true headliner. Six Chiefs receivers could realistically see a target against Detroit.
It would make sense if Kansas City leaned a bit more on their run game without Kelce. Isiah Pacheco is still positioned as the Chiefs' primary ball carrier. He’ll face a Lions’ defense that surrendered the 12th most rushing yards to running backs last season.
Jerick McKinnon is back; he’ll likely retain his pass-centric role from last season. Remember that Detroit allowed the fewest receiving yards per game to running backs during 2022-23.
Lions Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
|Kansas City Offense
|Points per Game: 26.6 (5th)
|Points Allowed: 21.7 (16th)
|Passing Yards: 251.8 (8th)
|Passing Yards: 220.9 (18th)
|Rushing Yards: 128.2 (11th)
|Rushing Yards: 107.2 (8th)
|Interceptions: 7 (31st)
|Interceptions: 11 (21st)
|Fumbles Lost: 8 (20th)
|Fumble Recoveries: 9 (19th)
|O-Line Rank: 2nd
|D-Line Rank: 15th
Jones is one of the most important defensive players in the league. If he misses this contest, Kansas City’s front four moves from a solid unit to a below-average one. The Lions are better equipped to deal with a player like Jones than most teams, but Detroit's premium offensive line could have a field day in both phases if Jones is inactive.
If Jones is inactive, that’s a positive for David Montgomery, who is expected to lead Detroit’s backfield in carries this season. Without the Chiefs’ centerpiece, their solid run defense becomes a middle-of-the-pack unit, at best.
The Chiefs also allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs last season. That’s a positive for Montgomery, but it’s even better for Detroit’s dynamic rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. Few running backs are more of a passing game mismatch than Gibbs, who is well-positioned to begin his career with a bang in this matchup.
Our head of DFS, Jordan Vanek, and I are willing to play Montgomery and Gibbs in the same showdown lineup.
Despite Kansas City winning 14 games last year, the Chiefs’ defense held up reasonably well to opposing wide receivers, yielding the 17th-most receiving yards to the position. The defense was vulnerable in the slot, surrendering the seventh-most fantasy points per game to slot receivers.
That’s wonderful news for Amon-Ra St. Brown, whose 430 slot snaps were ninth in the league last season. St. Brown saw 55 percent of his snaps in the slot last season, and his 27.8 percent target share was 12th-best in the league.
With Jameson Williams suspended for the first six games, St. Brown is the top option in the Lions’ passing attack by a considerable margin.
Veterans Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond and Marvin Jones Jr. round out Detroit’s wide receiver group. Reynolds had an 11.9 percent target share last season but went on a three-game run with at least eight targets and 80 yards receiving.
Most of that production came while St. Brown was either out or playing through an injury. Reynolds has a long-standing rapport with Jared Goff both as a Lion and a Ram, but Reynolds’ 2022 usage was sporadic outside of that three-game stretch.
Raymond had an 11.3 percent target share last season, though his usage was more consistent than Reynolds’. Jones Jr. returns to Detroit after a two-year stint in Jacksonville. Jones is 33, but he’s a strong contested-catch player who can be a threat in the scoring zone.
The Chiefs allowed the most fantasy points per game to tight ends lined up in the slot last season. After the Lions’ midseason trade of T.J. Hockenson, they lacked a significant passing-catching tight end through the rest of the season.
Before that trade, Hockenson saw 31 percent of his snaps from the slot. Rookie TE Sam LaPorta is a plus athlete on top of Detroit’s depth chart. (LaPorta wasn’t drafted in the second round for his blocking acumen.) We can’t rely on a rookie’s role in his professional debut, but LaPorta is a contrarian showdown option worth considering.
This Is What You’re Betting on in Lions at Chiefs
Kansas City is the measuring stick in professional football. Any bet on the Chiefs begins as a bet on Mahomes and Andy Reid. Their Chiefs can beat anyone, and they often do. In this matchup, they have to beat Detroit by a considerable margin to cover.
Chris Jones missing this contest will significantly reduce the Chiefs’ pass rush while limiting their run defense. It also gives Kansas City fewer paths to blowing out the Lions.
If you’re betting on the Lions, you’re primarily betting on Detroit’s ability to take advantage of a few key matchups. Detroit’s running backs have strong matchups in both phases, while St. Brown will be a problem for Kansas City in the slot. Expecting the Lions’ young defense to limit Mahomes is a big ask, but betting on Detroit’s offense to keep this contest close is not.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 28 - Lions 24
Ryan’s Recent Betting Record
ATS 2021: 49-31
ATS 2022: 48-32
Props 2022: 60-40
Ryan Reynolds has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2014. His research, observations and experience drive all his betting and fantasy football decisions. Follow him @RyanReynoldsNFL on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.