Lions On An ATS Roll

DETROIT LIONS THE ONLY NFL TEAM WITH NO LOSSES OR NON-COVERS

Heading into Week Five action in the NFL, and Monday Night';s Chicago-Detroit game on ESPN';s Monday Night Football, the Detroit Lions were the only pro team that was undefeated both straight up against the spread. That was true before any team took the field yesterday.

Detroit was 4-0 straight up
Detroit was 3-0-1 against the spread

The push came as a three-point favorite at Minnesota. Now, it';s true that Detroit could easily have been 2-2 straight up and 1-2-1 against the spread given that they fell behind by 20 points to different opponents in consecutive weeks! But, credit where it';s due. Games last 60 minutes, not 50. And the Lions found a way to get a win and get the money (or at least avoid losing the money at Minnesota).

Here';s a quick review of the Lions season to date. They haven';t been on TV much unless you live in Michigan, so most of you would be well-served with a brief summary.

WEEK ONE
Final Score: Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20
Total Yardage: Detroit 431, Tampa Bay 313
Yards-Per-Play: Detroit 6.3, Tampa Bay 4.9
Turnovers: Detroit 1, Tampa Bay 2

Tampa Bay had a defensive touchdown, or the final score would have done a better job of matching the stats. This was much more like a 27-13 game for the road team…a fantastic start to the season against a host that was getting a lot of run as a possible Wildcard. To some, this was 'tester” game for both teams in that Wildcard race (assuming Detroit wouldn';t be better than Green Bay, and that TB would have trouble outperforming BOTH New Orleans and Atlanta this year…maybe one, but not both). Detroit passed the test with flying colors, and announced to the world that the Preseason hype was probably true.

WEEK TWO
Final Score: Kansas City 3, Detroit 48
Total Yardage: Kansas City 267, Detroit 411
Yards-Per-Play: Kansas City 4.9, Detroit 5.9
Turnovers: Kansas City 6, Detroit 1

Wow…this was obviously another great outing…with Kansas City turnovers turning what would have been a comfortable win into a complete annihilation. But, there are still doubts about how hard Kansas City was trying here given that divisional rival San Diego was up next on the schedule. This came on the heels of Buffalo';s blowout of Kansas City…so we could at least be certain that Buffalo and Detroit were going to be decent…and that decency plus a big turnover edge would lead to blowouts. So far, that';s two games over 400 yards for the Detroit offense. Everyone knew the defense would be scary. If Detroit is going to be good on both sides of the ball…then they might become a legitimate force in the league fairly quickly.

WEEK THREE
Final Score: Detroit 26, Minnesota 23 (in overtime)
Total Yardage: Detroit 358, Minnesota 332
Yards-Per-Play: Detroit 5.1, Minnesota 5.2
Turnovers: Detroit 0, Minnesota 1

The first chinks in the armor were seen here. Detroit fell behind Minnesota 20-0 in the first half. Even if you';re flat off a couple of big wins…you shouldn';t play THAT poorly against a divisional rival. But, the Lions did rally strong in the second half…then won the toss in overtime and drove for the victorious field goal. On the whole…this helped solidify the 'Detroit as Wildcard” theme rather than Detroit as a new power. Offensive yardage dropped way down considering this was an overtime game. The defense had a sluggish first half, suggesting they';re not going to be consistently great…only great in flashes.

WEEK FOUR
Final Score: Detroit 34, Dallas 30
Total Yardage: Detroit 303, Dallas 434
Yards-Per-Play: Detroit 5.0, Dallas 5.8
Turnovers: Detroit 1, Dallas 3

The bulk of media coverage about this game concerned Tony Romo';s perceived 'choke job” because he threw two touchdown passes to the wrong team while blowing a 27-3 lead. To the degree anyone thought about Detroit, it was 'Hey, nice comeback.” But, these are very ugly stats considering the generic play of Dallas so far this season. Let';s say Dallas is basically playing at Wildcard caliber (nailbiters with the Jets, 49ers, Redskins, and Lions firmly establish you as roughly a 9-7 caliber team at this point). Detroit was more than 100 yards worse than that…and needed gift touchdowns to get back in the game. Okay…it was a sandwich spot between divisional rivals…and the second part of that sandwich was a rare Monday Night national TV showcase. Maybe Detroit was flat as a pancake and won anyway. Or, maybe the laws of math are about to hit them square in the face the next few weeks.

Detroit isn';t a 4-0 team in the normal sense of what that kind of record means. They';re only playoff opponent from last year was Kansas City…and the Chiefs wouldn';t have made the playoffs in 2010 in a real division. Let';s make a list:

*The offense was sharp in the first two games, but looked much more mortal in the next two. Remember, this is the new era of pro football where teams can seemingly coast to 400 yards. Detroit was in the low 300';s in regulation the last two weeks. Mathew Stafford has found a receiver who lives for the big play. But, this isn';t yet an office that can be counted on to play four good quarters in a row.

*The defense isn';t as scary as expected. They';re certainly forcing turnovers…but they';re giving up too many yards both on a per-play basis and in aggregate. They haven';t faced a truly elite quarterback yet either (unless you';re a Romo lover who thinks interceptions are flukes). They will have some highlight reel sacks, and they';ll probably keep turning bad miscues into touchdowns. Those plays don';t come vs. the very best though. You';re not one of the very best yourself until you can win without them.

*The schedule may turn out to be pretty soft when it';s all said and done. Kansas City and Minnesota had the look of 4-12 teams out of the gate…5-11 if they get their acts together. Dallas has such a poor record with Tony Romo at the helm this year and last (3-9) that you wonder why ESPN wants to treat him like the new Brett Favre. Tampa Bay has the look of a .500 caliber grinder that could go 9-7 with a break or two (and they may have already had those breaks).

Crushing a ho-hum schedule is the mark of a champion. Sneaking by a ho-hum schedule because of turnovers is the mark of a pretender. Detroit looks to be wavering between those two at the moment. We';ll learn a lot about host the rest of the 2011 season is going to play out tonight in the big TV game against Detroit.

JIM HURLEY has a strong opinion this evening. You can purchase that side or total right here at the website with your credit card. We';ll also have something for you in Game Two of the NLCS matching St. Louis and Milwaukee. Cap off your wagering week with a two-sport PARLAY! If you prefer talking to one of our representatives directly…or you want to discuss seasonal combination packages, call the NETWORK office at 1-800-323-4453.

We';ll talk more baseball tomorrow here in the NOTEBOOK…getting you caught up once again with what';s been a very dramatic postseason. Admit it…you weren';t expecting Detroit and St. Louis to still be playing!

Wednesday will bring our weekly review of key stats in the NFL…to get you ready for next week';s pro action. College football races back to the schedule Thursday with USC-Cal from the Pac 10.

Be sure you';re with us every day in the NOTEBOOK so you know what';s really happening in the world of sports. And, link up with JIM HURLEY';S NETWORK every day for BIG JUICY WINNERS!

 

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