The Detroit Lions have had a miserable history in the playoffs. But these aren’t your dad’s Lions, and it’s showing in the betting markets.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, since Nevada legalized sports betting in 1949, Detroit’s consensus 6.5-point favorite status for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay is its largest ever in the playoffs. It surpasses the Lions as a 4-point favorite against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970 divisional round, a game Detroit would lose 5-0.
Although their 6.5-point favorite role trails Baltimore and San Francisco each giving 9.5 points in their divisional round matchups, it’s been a long time coming for the Lions.
«They haven’t been favorites in the playoffs for sure, but they haven’t been in the playoffs that much,» DraftKings director of race and sports operations Johnny Avello told ESPN. «The team has just not had many opportunities.»
This is the first time in franchise history that the Lions have hosted two playoff games in a single postseason, and should they win, it will mark the first time since 1957 that they won multiple playoff games. They are one of four NFL franchises to never appear in a Super Bowl, along with fellow divisional round contender Houston, eliminated Cleveland and Jacksonville, which missed the postseason after a 1-5 finish.
Like the Browns in the wild-card round, the Lions are public betting darlings as fans root for the team to finally find success in January.
At BetMGM, Lions -6.5 has attracted 63% of the bets and 71% of the handle, with the moneyline (-275) bringing in 47% of the bets and 73% of the handle. At PointsBet, Detroit is taking 81% of the moneyline handle, which the sportsbook notes is by far the most of any team this weekend. The action pushed the line a half-point from the consensus opener of -6.
The state of Michigan is driving betting action on the Lions across the country. Caesars reports that Detroit is the most uneven moneyline and spread percentage-wise by handle and bets — both in Michigan and nationwide.
At ESPN BET in Michigan, Lions -6.5 is attracting 73.36% of the bets compared to 49.85% everywhere else; the moneyline has seen 84.73% of the bets in Michigan compared to 66.74% in all the other states.
Michigan bettors believe the Lions can go all the way and are putting their money behind it in force. At DraftKings in Michigan, since Sunday, Detroit has been the most-bet team to win the Super Bowl by five times the handle and four times the bets of any other team; the Lions are the most-bet team to win the NFC by 10 times the handle and three times the bets.
It all adds up to huge liability on the Lions for the sportsbooks.
«The Lions drive a lot of interest from bettors in Michigan,» said BetMGM trading manager Christian Cipollini. «Detroit playing more games is good for the sportsbook, but eventually we need the Lions to lose.»
Caesars assistant director of trading Adam Pullen said that while the Lions winning the Super Bowl would represent a «small winner» for the book, their winning the conference would be a «medium liability.» The same goes for PointsBet, which reports that Detroit is its biggest NFC champion liability.
One aspect influencing the public’s confidence and the books’ deference to the Lions is the enormous coaching presence from the sideline. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Detroit is 35-17 against the spread in three seasons under Dan Campbell, the best record in the NFL in that span. Campbell is 39-25 ATS in his career — including 12 games as the Miami Dolphins interim coach in 2015 — which is the best mark of any coach since the 1970 merger with at least three seasons.
«They operate as a collective, not as individuals, and I think it suits them and the coach,» Pullen said. «The coach is the biggest star of the team. … That works, I think, to their benefit.»