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Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs: Key players, top storylines, odds and prediction

The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs open up their title defense Thursday night against the upstart Detroit Lions.

Kansas City heads into Thursday’s season opener inside Arrowhead Stadium as one of the top favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. Meanwhile, Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions have high expectations heading into the 2023 NFL season.

Below, we preview this big game by looking at everything you need to know. That includes checking on the top players to watch, the biggest storylines, odds for the game and a final prediction.

Related: Unlock Fantasy Sports Success! Get FREE Insights & Tips From Dr. Roto and His Team Of Big-Money Fantasy Winners!

Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs: Kickoff time, TV information and odds

NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports
  • Date: Thursday, September 7
  • Time: 8:20 PM ET
  • Television: NBC
  • Point spread: Chiefs (-4.5)

Top Detroit Lions players to watch

detroit lions at kansas city chiefs
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Here, we look at three Lions players to watch as Dan Campbell’s squad attempts to pull off an upset and make a statement to open the 2023 NFL season.

Jahmyr Gibbs, running back

Gibbs was surprisingly selected No. 12 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft to provide Jared Goff that elite dual-threat out of the backfield. Some say that Detroit over drafted the running back position in an NFL that doesn’t tend to value them. The Lions are not buying that based on their belief that he can be a major weapon in the passing game.

“He carries the scalpel, and he can slice you up. He can hurt you in the pass game potentially. I’m talking about Gibbs obviously — get him out there and do a few more things because that’s kind of what I know,” Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell on Gibbs.

In his only season with Alabama, Gibbs tallied 1,370 total yards and 10 touchdowns at a clip of seven yards per touch. He also caught 44 passes for 444 yards. Kansas City ranked eighth in the NFL against the run a season ago. But with Chris Jones out, it remains to be seen just how good this unit will be. If the Lions are able to get balance, it will go a long way in pulling off the road upset.

Cameron Sutton, cornerback

Detroit brought in both Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley to provide veteran leadership at cornerback. With Moseley already ruled out to injury, the onus is going to be on Sutton to step up. Last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers saw Sutton register 15 passes defended and three interceptions while yielding a mere 65.3 QB rating. He was among the most-underrated offseason additions in the NFL.

Sutton will be tasked with going up against Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling come Thursday night. In his first season with Kansas City, MVS caught 42 passes for 687 yards. However, Patrick Mahomes tallied a mere 83.7 QB rating when targeting him. This could be an opportunity for Sutton to make a game-changing play in his regular season debut with the Lions.

Jared Goff, quarterback

As good as Goff was last season for a surprising Detroit team, he struggled on the road. The Pro Bowler threw six touchdowns against four interceptions in eight road starts while boasting a 23-to-3 split inside Ford Field.

We’re not expecting a Lions defense that ranked in the bottom five of the NFL in points allowed last season to hold Mahomes and Co. in check. Rather, Goff must do his part in what promises to be a shootout.

“If it happens you embrace it,” Goff said ahead of Week 1. “I know on defense, they don’t want it to be a shootout. But offensively, if that’s the way the game goes, you’ve gotta just kinda go with it and make the plays that are there.”

In games that Goff threw multiple touchdowns last season, the Lions went 5-4. In outings that saw him tally north of 300 passing yards, Detroit was 2-3. Can it come into Arrowhead and win a shootout? That’s a major question Goff must answer Thursday night.

Related: Top storyline for each NFL Week 1 game

Top Kansas City Chiefs players to watch

detroit lions at kansas city chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

With the Chiefs looking to defend their title and win their third Super Bowl in four seasons, there are a few players to watch in this opener.

Noah Gray, tight end

With All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce potentially sidelined to injury, pressure is going to be on this 2021 fifth-round pick from Duke to do his thing. He recorded 28 receptions for 299 yards and a mere touchdown in 17 games a season ago. Simply put, Gray has not been given much of an opportunity due to Kelce’s presence in Kansas City.

The Lions believe they improved their ability to defend tight ends by signing Pro Bowl defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the offseason. It better hope so. Last season saw the Lions yield a 77% completion and nine touchdowns to tight ends. If Gray eats Thursday night, it will signify a Chiefs blowout win.

Skyy Moore, wide receiver

Moore, 22, was up-and-down as a rookie last season. He caught just 22 passes for 250 yards in 16 regular-season games. However, the Western Michigan product did score a touchdown in Kansas City’s Super Bowl win over the Philadelphia Eagles and looked great during the summer.

With the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman now on opposing AFC teams, it’s time for Moore to step up. Even if Kelce is limited Thursday night, that’s magnified further.

George Karlaftis, EDGE

With Chris Jones out of action due to a holdout, someone needs to step up from a pass-rush perspective in Kansas City. The good news is that these Chiefs are looking at a Year 2 jump from Karlaftis.

The former first-round pick from Purdue was darn good in stints as a rookie last season. He tallied 11 QB hits, eight tackles for loss and six sacks while defending seven passes. All six of those sacks came during a seven-game span to conclude the regular season. If Karlaftis can’t make his presence known here, Jared Goff will have a field day.

Top Detroit Lions storyline

detroit lions at kansas city chiefs
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

How will the defense hold up against elite offense?

Lions general manager Brian Holmes firmly believes that they fortified a defense that ranked 28th in points allowed and dead last in total yards. The Lions pretty much have new starters across the board in the secondary. That includes cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley as well as defensive backs Brian Branch and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Boy, will this team be tested against Patrick Mahomes and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. While we’re not expecting Detroit to keep the Chiefs’ offense completely in check, its defense can’t afford a track meet to take place inside Arrowhead Stadium.

Related: Are the Detroit Lions ready to join ranks of the NFL’s elite?

Top Kansas City Chiefs storyline

NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Absence of Chris Jones

We focused on this some above. But the absence of Jones can’t be overlooked. We’re talking about a defensive tackle who recorded 29 QB hits and 15.5 sacks from the interior of the defensive line last season. Most quarterbacks struggle from pressure at that spot, and Goff is no different.

Without an elite-level pass rusher inside, the Chiefs’ secondary is going to be tested big time. It is also raw with cornerbacks Jaylen Watson and Trent McDuffie as well as safety Bryan Cook just now entering their second seasons.

  • Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs prediction: Chiefs 35, Lions 31
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