Lions, and Jaguars, and bets, oh my!

Jacksonville is favored over Detroit, but bettors are favoring the underdog in this one

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Jacksonville Jaguars
Coming off a win over the Ravens, Jacksonville is the favorite against the Lions
Image: Getty Images

As the NFL season marches toward its conclusion, bettors understand which teams are good, which teams are bad, and which teams have no shot of reaching the postseason. All of that will play a role in how betting lines are made, change over the course of the week, and how they are bet on. Oftentimes, the favorites will receive a majority of bets because bettors understand which team is better. However, occasionally, an underdog squeaks through the cracks and gets the opportunity to pull off an upset, but this time, bettors are seeing through it.

According to OddsChecker US, the Lions, despite opening up as 0.5-point underdogs at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, are getting 70 percent of the bets in their favor. And honestly, I still think that number is low.

This seems like an obvious case of “What have you done for me lately?” With Jacksonville coming off a thrilling one-point victory over Baltimore, oddsmakers seemed inclined to make the Jaguars the favorite in their following game, despite having an awful history of being the favorite on the road. Do you know the last time Jacksonville was favored on the road? Week 1 of 2021 against fellow punching bag Houston. The Jags lost by 16. Jacksonville hasn’t won a game on the road it was favored in since 2019, when the team beat the Bengals, 27-17. Cincy finished that season 2-14. Safe to say, this year’s Lions are maybe a little better than those Bengals were.

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Detroit is fresh off a 28-25 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Lions lost by three points to a Super Bowl contender, but are the underdogs at home now? That’s recency bias. Yes, Trevor Lawrence led a great game-winning drive to beat Baltimore, but you can’t deny that the Lions have had much better outings as a whole. A three-point loss to the Eagles. A four-point loss to the Vikings. A three-point loss to the Seahawks. A four-point loss to the Dolphins. Wins over a hot Chicago Bears squad, and the New York Giants. They held Aaron Rodgers to nine points! Jacksonville, on the other hand, lost to the Giants. The Jags lost by eight to the Eagles, and Philly has been less impressive as the season has progressed. Their only impressive wins were Baltimore and a 38-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers...back in Week 3.

Yes, the Lions’ defense is atrocious, but the Jaguars’ isn’t much better. Detroit ranks dead last in yards allowed (414.5); the Jaguars rank 24th (362.9). Both teams rely on turnovers to keep their offense in games, and while Jacksonville has secured more takeaways than Detroit on the season (16 to 14), more than half of the Jags takeaways came in the first three weeks of the season when they started 2-1. Detroit, on the other hand, has forced at least one turnover in every game since Week 1. Yes, Jacksonville has picked their takeaway game up in recent weeks, having forced six in their last three contests, but the Lions’ offense has committed only three turnovers in their last five games.

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Furthermore, Amon-Ra St. Brown is going to be a problem for Jacksonville’s defense. The Jaguars D surrendered 146 yards to Davante Adams three weeks ago, and 134 yards to Michael Pittman just a few weeks prior. Receivers with heavy target shares in their offense tend to do phenomenally well against Jacksonville’s secondary, and St. Brown is ninth in target share (28.5 percent) and first in targets per route run. When healthy, he’s one of the most involved wide receivers in the NFL and the Jaguars haven’t shown they know how to defend against someone that dynamic. Considering that St. Brown’s biggest strength is his YAC-ability, and the Jaguars have allowed the fifth-most YAC and accrued the second-most missed tackles in the NFL. That’s just more bad news for the Duval County Cats.

After American bettors lost boatloads of money betting on the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team to beat the Netherlands in the Round of 16, it’s good to see more bettors coming to their senses and betting on the Lions, even if they’re an underdog. While anything can happen on any given Sunday, the Lions have been too good recently to allow the Jaguars to walk away with an easy win. I’m taking that +0.5 line every day of the week.