Lions Ready to Show They Can Compete on Big Stage With Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the NFL’s standards for greatness over the past eight seasons. With quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid serving as one of the best tandems in NFL history, Kansas City will be pursuing its third Super Bowl championship in the past five seasons. The defending champion Chiefs will have an interesting matchup with the Detroit Lions on Thursday night in the season opener.

Colorful coach Dan Campbell helped Detroit go from three wins in his first season to nine in his second. The Lions hardly have any recent history worth bragging about compared to their opening day opponents. Detroit last won a playoff game in 1991 and hasn’t made the postseason since 2016.

Chiefs Installed as Favorite for Season Opener

 

Kansas City is a 6.5 point favorite for the game, which is slated to kick off at 8:20 p.m. Thursday night. The Chiefs lead the all-time series between the two teams 9-5. Kansas City has won its last two games with Detroit and last lost to the Lions in 2011.

The Chiefs have made the Super Bowl in three of the past four seasons. Kansas City won two Super Bowls, including a 38-35 win over Philadelphia last season.

Hopes are high for Detroit after how it closed the 2022 season. The Lions closed the season by going 8-2 in their final 10 games. The Lions even completed a rare season sweep of the Green Bay Packers, including a Week 18 victory that kept Green Bay out of the playoffs. 

Lions Brought in Playmakers to Improve Defense

k1c1t4uy66h2im42tlym
Detroit Lions

Detroit’s big turnaround last season came from putting together a devastating offense led by veteran quarterback Jared Goff. The Lions’ offense would finish fifth in the league in points scored by putting up 26.6 per game. What held Detroit back was its defense’s inability to make big stops.

The Lions were aggressive in free agency to find players who could provide more support on defense. Detroit hopes these players can vault them to the top of a wide-open NFC North. Detroit brought in veteran cornerback Cam Sutton from Pittsburgh in the offseason and also landed safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson from Philadelphia. In addition, the Lions have a strong young pass rusher in Aidan Hutchinson, who can apply pressure to Mahomes in the season opener.

In the draft, the Lions also used their second first-round pick to pick Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell. Detroit also grabbed Alabama safety Brian Branch in the second round to help add depth to the free agents they already signed.

Detroit’s Retooled Offense Will Take Time to Come Together

 

The Lions surprised many observers by dealing away D’Andre Swift during the draft last season after he finished second on the team in rushing with 542 yards. Detroit had already let Jamaal Williams walk, who finished last season with 1,066 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Instead of relying on a veteran returner to fill their shoes, Detroit drafted Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick. 

Gibbs did take away some of the Lions’ fan anxiety with a strong training game. During college, Gibbs played with Georgia Tech and the Crimson Tide but didn’t break the 1,000-yard rushing mark in three seasons. The Lions will need Gibbs to learn quickly at the professional level to be an important contributor.

Will Father Time Catch Travis Kelce?

 

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The question for Kelce is, can he continue to set new records at his position? Only one tight end in NFL history has finished with more than 1,000 yards receiving over the age of 34. Former Philadelphia tight end Pete Retzlaff is the only player to do so, and he did it in 1965.

211102095439-mahomes-card
Patrick Mahomes

Kelce, 33, is still Mahomes’ top target as the wide receiving core has gone through many changes. Mahomes’ wide receiving corps hasn’t had many big names since Tyreek Hill departed in free agency two years ago. Kansas City will need contributions from Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Skyy Moore to keep the passing game going.

The Chiefs will also have a new play caller this season. Former Chicago Bears coach Mat Nagy will take over play calling after Eric Bienmenay left Kansas City in the offseason to take the same job with the Washington Commanders.

Chiefs Still Have to Worry about Chris Jones

 

One thing for certain about Kansas City is that the Chiefs have the pieces to keep on their current roll. Kansas City has won the AFC West in every season since 2016 and has finished with double-digit victories in every season since 2015. There are some concerns, however.

Linebacker Chris Jones, who is entering the final year of his contract, held out of training camp. Jones was placed on the do not report list and is unlikely to play in the season opener. Jones’ absence will be a large one for Kansas City. He tied a career high by finishing with 15.5 sacks last year.

Kansas City has a plan in place without him but would like to get their veteran star back. The Chiefs will also be without defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, who is serving a six-game suspension, for a significant part of the season. Mike Danna and Tershawn Watson are both capable pass rushers who may be asked to pick up some of what Jones does.

Detroit Could Use a Fast Start

 

Campbell’s first two seasons as coach have seen the Lions struggle to win early. During Year 1, the Lions started 0-10-1 before finishing 3-13-1. In Campbell’s second season, the Lions started the year 1-6 before rallying down the stretch. Detroit has a quarterback who is capable of being a strong No. 1 option in Jared Goff.

The Lions also brought in a number of new faces on defense. If everything clicks, this Detroit team may be capable of not falling into a hole at the start of the year.