NFL Kickoff Game picks: Potentially short-handed Chiefs offer value vs. Lions as 2023 season begins

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All times Eastern | Game odds via SportsLine consensus

🔥 The Hot Ticket

Lions at Chiefs, 8:20 p.m. | TV: NBC

  • The Pick: Chiefs -4.5 (-110)
  • Key trend: The Chiefs are 12-8-1 ATS against the NFC since 2019.

I don’t know what’s harder to wrap my head around with this game. The fact the Lions are playing in primetime in the first game of the NFL regular season or that those same Lions are only 4.5-point underdogs to the defending Super Bowl champions.

I know that there’s uncertainty surrounding Travis Kelce‘s status for this game, but my gut instinct is he’s going to play. He may not be full strength, but he’ll be on the field as a helpful diversion, if nothing else. And even if he doesn’t play, well, the Chiefs still have that Patrick Mahomes guy. He’s pretty decent.

Not only is Mahomes the best QB in the game today, he’s been better earlier in the season throughout his career. In a season’s first four games, Mahomes is averaging three touchdowns passing and 308.4 yards per game. The Chiefs have gone 17-3 in those games. Even without Kelce, I have a hard time thinking Mahomes will struggle because he still has Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ offensive scheme on his side.

Then there’s the Lions. It’s a team that feels like it’s being crowned simply because Aaron Rodgers left Green Bay and everybody thinks Kirk Cousins and the Vikings are too boring. The Lions — THE LIONS! — are the cool pick in the NFC North. It’s the same Detroit team that was 9-8 overall last year but only 4-7 against teams outside the NFC North. Sure, believing this team could improve isn’t unrealistic, but the Lions can be better and still be mediocre.

Do your thing if you want to bet on a mediocre team against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium in a primetime game. I’ll be doing the smart thing instead.

👀 Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model is on the same play, and there is no shortage of picks available from all of SportsLine’s experts. Everybody is excited to get the NFL season underway.

💰 The Picks


Lions at Chiefs, 8:20 p.m. | TV: NBC

  • The Pick: Jerick McKinnon Over 26.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
  • Key trend: McKinnon averaged 42.4 receiving yards per game over Kansas City’s final seven games last year.

I like this prop if Kelce plays, and I love it if he does not. As I said, if Kelce plays, there’s a good chance he’ll be more distraction than weapon, but Kansas City will be throwing the ball somewhere. The Chiefs have plenty of question marks at receiver, but Jerick McKinnon took on a much more significant role in the offense late last season.

Over the final seven games (including the playoffs), McKinnon averaged 42.4 yards and 4.3 receptions per game. The Chiefs offense will continue to use different backs, but McKinnon has emerged as the preferred back in the passing game, and Mahomes has developed a trust in him. There’s a strong chance he will play a larger role than anticipated tonight.

Murray State at Louisville, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ACC Network

  • The Pick: Louisville -42.5 (-115)
  • Key trend: Murray State has lost its last three games against Power Five teams by 45.7 points per contest.

There is a college game tonight, and what a doozy! Louisville hosts Murray State, and while I don’t make a habit of betting games involving FCS schools, I see value in this spot. Louisville got thrown for a loop against Georgia Tech last week, allowing 28 points in the second quarter. However, the Cardinals got their act together at halftime, came out in the second half and dominated the game 26-6 to pull off a 39-34 win.

Don’t expect Murray State to post a 28-point fourth quarter. Murray State has been one of the lesser FCS programs for a few years now, and while it may have beaten Presbyterian 41-10 last week, Presbyterian could be the worst team at the FCS level. The Racers haven’t had nearly the same success against Power Five teams, losing their last three contests by an average of 45.7 points. This is Jeff Brohm’s first home game back at Louisville as coach, and he will want to put on a show for the Cardinals faithful. Mercy will not be shown.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model has three “A” graded picks for this weekend’s college football slate, and believe it or not, Northwestern at Rutgers is one of them.

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