Detroit Lions vs Kansas City Chiefs (London)
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov 1st 6:30am PDT
Spread: KC -4.5
MoneyLine: DET +190 | KC -230
We’ll be treated to yet another early game on Sunday when the Chiefs “host” the Lions in London. The Chiefs are coming off a surprising victory in Pittsburgh while the Lions dropped a winnable game at home to Minnesota.
After the win in Pittsburgh, the oddsmakers placed the Chiefs as a 4 to 4.5 favorite, depending on the sportsbook. The Chiefs’ stock is high after the upset as a significant road dog, whereas the Lions’ stock is low after a disappointing loss as a slight home dog. In a league where the outcomes of the last week often have little meaning, the Lions offer some situational value.
Lions New Offensive Coordinator
Additionally, the Lions will be debuting a new offense after the firing of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan. QB coach Jim Bob Cooter has been tabbed as the new offensive coordinator. Cooter, who boasts experience working with Peyton Manning in both Indianapolis and Denver, will become the second youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL at 31.
While the Lions are remaining quiet about any major changes to the offensive gameplan, all the quotes from players and coaches this week point to a simplified game plan, especially up front. Look for a similar boost in performance from the offense as seen with the Dolphins after they simplified their attack following the firing of Joe Philbin.
Stafford Dealing With The Pass Rush
Stafford was hit 13 times and sacked seven times last week, with unblocked rushers chasing him the whole game. Under Lombardi the Lions employed a quick-strike passing game that has not been a good fit for Stafford. According to Pro Football Focus, Stafford has attempted only 21 passes of 20 or more yards in the air, despite the presence of Calvin Johnson on the outside.
With nothing to lose sitting at 1-6, the Lions will look to stretch the field against a Kansas City defense that has been exploitable through the air. Kansas City ranks 24th in pass defense FOA’s DVOA (a measure of per-play efficiency).
Strength Of The Lions Defense
The strength of the Lions defense continues to be up front, where they rank 7th in FOA’s Adjusted Line Yards (a metric that measures the performance of a whole defensive front seven against the run). Although Detroit has been weak against the pass this year, they get to square off against a mediocre passing attack.
With Jeremy Maclin still recovering from a concussion and Jamaal Charles done for the year, the Chiefs will likely continue to feature the run game and short passing game that has had mixed results.
Alex Smith As A QB
Alex Smith ranks last for qualified quarterbacks in FOA’s ALEX at -3.6, which measures the average distance the ball is thrown relative to the number of yards needed on 3rd down. For instance if it’s 3rd and 10 and there is a screen thrown that is caught 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, that would count as -15. Not surprisingly the metric was named after Smith for his tendency to throw well short of the sticks on 3rd down.
In another indicator of Smith’s unwillingness to throw downfield, there have been 0 defensive pass interference calls drawn by the Chiefs versus for 5 for 84 for Stafford and the Lions.
Building off the excitement of a new offensive scheme and an increased commitment to throwing deep, the Lions are primed to surprise the Chiefs in London.
The Play: Lions +4.5
San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov 1st 10:00am PDT
Spread: BAL -3.5
MoneyLine: SD +160 | BAL -180
San Diego travels to Baltimore in a matchup of two desperate teams looking to save their respective seasons. Baltimore’s 1-6 record on paper looks bad but every single one of the losses was within one score.
The Chargers are 2-5 and are coming off a blowout loss to the Raiders at home where they scored 3 second half touchdowns to make the final outcome look closer. Baltimore is coming off a near miracle comeback against Arizona on Monday night.
West Coast Teams Traveling East
Historically, west coast teams traveling for early games that start at 1pm in the Eastern time zone are 56-121, losing by an average score of 24-19. It may not help matters for the Chargers that Daylight saving time will take effect on Sunday as well.
With safety Eric Weddle not expected to play for the Chargers, look for the Ravens to exploit the Chargers deep. The Chargers’ pass defense was shredded against Oakland with Weddle missing the contest. As a defensive unit they rank 30th in DVOA, with both poor numbers against the pass (23rd) and the run (31st).
Joe Flacco’s Arm
Joe Flacco and co. should be able to move the ball at will against a fading Chargers’ defense. Flacco has nearly led the Ravens over Denver, Arizona, and Cincinnati this season. Justin Forsett continues to impress this year and will be used heavily with Buck Allen against San Diego’s lackluster run defense.
The Chargers’ offensive line continues to deteriorate as the season goes along. Several key members of the line are injured and things won’t be any easier against Baltimore, which is 8th in adjusted sack rate.
San Diego’s Running Game
San Diego has no running game, ranking 29th in adjusted line yards. Although Phillip Rivers is putting together an excellent season statistically, he has been prone to bouts of inconsistency due to the sieve-like offensive line and the one dimensional nature of their attack. The Ravens should be able to knock Rivers out of rhythm early and run away with this one.
The Play: Ravens -3.5
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