Broncos-Lions Sunday Night Preview
DENVER IS LUCKY TO BE 2-0...DETROIT UNLUCKY TO BE 0-2 HEADING INTO BIG SUNDAY NIGHT GAME ON NBC
The Denver Broncos sure don't have the stats of a team destined to threaten for the AFC title in 2015. They didn't score an offensive touchdown in their season opener vs. Baltimore, and then needed a couple of miracles to beat the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday night. They're lucky to be 2-0...and could have easily been 0-2 given their unproductive offense.
The Detroit Lions are 0-2 after drawing one of the toughest schedules of anyone in the league. And that gets tougher with the Broncos coming to town! They didn't get to be part of Tennessee-Cleveland-Tampa Bay matching up against each other down at the bottom of the Power Ratings. Let's jump right into that as we explore JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats...
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Denver: 2-0 (won "ugly" vs. both Baltimore and Kansas City)
Detroit: 0-2 (tough early schedule at San Diego and Minnesota)
Even as a potential playoff darkhorse, Detroit was supposed to lose at San Diego and did...and was supposed to lose at Minnesota and did. You can't say that flipping schedules would have flipped the records because Denver had some tough opponents too. But...it may turn out down the road that Detroit was one of the best 0-2 starters this season. Will they be the best 0-3 team in the NFL if they can't win here?
Denver: 3.7 on offense, 4.2 on defense
Detroit: 5.3 on offense, 6.2 on defense
Both teams look to be in some trouble given those numbers...as we're now getting into the reasons sharps are skeptical about both in terms of January football. The Denver offense has been horrible outside that one long drive at the end of the Kansas City game vs. a prevent defense. Even with that...they're only averaging 3.7 yards-per-play. That's just awful by normal standards. The defense is terrific...possibly the new Seattle of the NFL. But Peyton Manning no longer scares opposing defenses because of his erratic arm and diminishing strength. For the hosts, the Detroit defense looks to be in trouble vs. quality. They let Philip Rivers pass for a lot of yards two weeks ago, and then they let Adrian Peterson rush for a lot of yards last week. The defense took some personnel hits in the offseason. You can see the ramifications of that already.
How do you handicap that combination?! An offense that can't move the ball against a defense that isn't stopping people!
This is another reason Denver is looking like peak Seattle on defense. They combine that low YPP mark with a high takeaway rate (so far anyway). That's bailing them out to this point. And, it could certainly be an aide against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He was a turnover machine before playing for a conservative head coach. He's been pressing so far in 2015 while playing from deficits even with that conservative head coach.
Denver: 2-0 ATS
Detroit: 0-2 ATS
The market has technically underrated Denver...but their skepticism of Manning was well-founded. Oddsmakers and sharps just didn't anticipate that huge turnover advantage (nor the crazy ending in KC). Detroit has been overrated...particularly on defense. Does this week's line correct for earlier misperceptions?
Current Line: Denver by 3, total of 44.5
If you like playing 0-2 teams who "must" win, then the Lions are going to be a very appealing TV home underdog. Home field is usually worth three points in the NFL, particularly in inter-conference games where there's unfamiliarity for the visitor. The market is saying Denver's now SIX points better than Detroit on a neutral field. Is that justified by what we've seen so far. ONLY if you think the turnovers will go Denver's way again.
JIM HURLEY knows how important Sunday nights are for Las Vegas bettors. He's been studying this one all week because of pointspread blowout potential. If that 0-2 angle comes into play...Detroit can get its first win of the season in comfortable fashion. But, if the Lions defense can't get important second half stops...then the Broncos will be cashing their third ticket of the young season.
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Back with you tomorrow to preview the Kansas City/Green Bay game on ESPN. How about that....last week's Super Bowl III rematch (Jets/Colts) is followed by a Super Bowl I rematch! Then our midweek report will get you ready for Baltimore/Pittsburgh in a Thursday night AFC North showdown. Great to see so many big games on the early prime time slate.
Monday: NFL TV Preview...Kansas City at Green Bay
Midweek: NFL TV Preview...Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview...Alabama at Georgia
Sunday: NFL TV Preview...Dallas at New Orleans
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