There aren't many other teams who would be favored despite missing two of their three best players, going against an opponent favored to win its division. In fact, there might just be one.
And the Kansas City Chiefs are favored by more than a field goal, too.
We assume that the Chiefs just need Patrick Mahomes on the field to be successful, and to be fair, they've earned that. They won a Super Bowl and Mahomes won an MVP last season after trading Tyreek Hill. But winning and covering on Thursday night against the Detroit Lions, perhaps without tight end Travis Kelce and defensive lineman Chris Jones, won't be easy.
The Chiefs were 6.5-point favorites for almost the entire offseason over the Lions but when news broke that Kelce injured his knee in practice on Tuesday, the line dropped to Chiefs -4.5 at BetMGM. The over/under is 53.5.
Kelce was listed as questionable on the injury report. Even if Kelce plays, will he be anywhere near full speed? It's a big question. Jones has been holding out all offseason. Kelce is easily the most important player on the Chiefs' offense other than Mahomes, and Jones is clearly the best player on Kansas City's defense. The Chiefs' defense has been average with Jones, an All-Pro last season. It might not be pretty without him.
Most of the attention on the opening game has been on the Chiefs, but the Lions probably deserve some too. They're favored to win the NFC North after winning eight of their last 10 games last season. Detroit had a strong offseason, too. There's a tax to be paid whenever you bet the Chiefs — that's a big reason Kansas City hasn't been a great bet against the spread in the Mahomes era — and when the line was 6.5 it seemed inflated. It might still be inflated at 4.5 if Kelce and Jones don't play. The Lions aren't going to be an easy out this season, not even for the Chiefs. Even if the Chiefs had Kelce and Jones for Thursday night, Detroit was going to present a challenge.
The NFL officially returns on Thursday night. For many years, the defending champs on Thursday night have been a good bet. But most haven't had the opening-night questions the 2023 Chiefs have.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
Some Lions-Chiefs props
It's hard to take any props for the Chiefs players without knowing Travis Kelce's status. But there are plenty of Lions props to sift through.
A lot of the Lions' side will depend on how you feel about Jahmyr Gibbs' usage. The rookie first-round pick is a running back and despite preseason bluster about using running backs in different roles, usually teams end up lining up running backs in normal backfield roles. But the Lions really are laying it on thick about Gibbs playing more of a receiver role. Gibbs' receiving total is 31.5 yards at BetMGM. I'll take the under, assuming the Lions will be like every other team that supposedly is going to get creative with a running back and just use Gibbs in a normal role. We'll see.
Since I think the Lions will put up a lot of yards and points, I think Jared Goff over 258.5 passing yards is a good play. I'll also go with Josh Reynolds over 26.5 receiving yards. Detroit will have to pass plenty to keep up with the Chiefs, regardless of whether Kelce plays.
There's a college football game, too
It's a bit of a strange strategy to schedule a college football game on the same night the NFL kicks off, but Murray State and Louisville are going to be on ACC Network if you prefer that. Louisville, coming off a 39-34 win over Georgia Tech in their opener, is a 42.5-point favorite at BetMGM. Maybe it's for the best that game is being hidden opposite Lions-Chiefs.
MLB has 6 games
It's a short night for Major League Baseball. The best matchup is probably the Seattle Mariners at the Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners have been hot for weeks and took over first place in the AL West, while the Rays are comfortably in a wild-card spot and not out of the AL East race against the Baltimore Orioles. Seattle is a -135 favorite with Cy Young candidate Luis Castillo on the mound.
There's also intrigue for the Chicago Cubs vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. With a win, the Cubs gain another half-game on the Milwaukee Brewers, who are off Thursday, in the NL Central. The Cubs are -185 favorites.
What's the best bet?
It was probably clear already, but I'm going with the Lions. Hopefully you got them earlier in the week when it was Detroit +6.5. But I'll still ride with the Lions at +4.5 (and use that line for my season-long ATS picks record), and even get a little bit of moneyline action at +180. This should be a fun game.