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NFL Week 1: Lions-Chiefs Preview, Prop Pick, Prediction

Aug 26, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) walks on field against the Cleveland Browns prior to a game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL season officially gets underway with the Detroit Lions visiting the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.

It’s a matchup between a Lions team many expect to be contenders in the NFC North, while the Chiefs begin their quest for a third championship in five seasons.

The Chiefs have not lost in Week 1 since drafting Patrick Mahomes, and there’s little reason to believe that streak will stop on Thursday night. They have scored at least 33 points in every opener since 2017.

Yes, Kansas City might be without tight end Travis Kelce, but Mahomes has plenty of other weapons and Detroit gave up the third-most yards in the air last season.

The Chiefs are favored by 4.5 points at BetMGM, where the Over/Under is 53.5 points. The line opened at Kansas City -7, with Kelce’s uncertain status a significant factor in the shift along with the absence of holdout defensive lineman Chris Jones.

The Chiefs’ spread line has still been backed by 61 percent of the bets and 55 percent of the money wagered at the book, while the Lions’ +180 moneyline has been popular with 75 and 61 percent of the action, respectively.

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Lions 24

Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon Over 26.6 Receiving Yards (-125 at DraftKings): This has been the third-most popular player prop at the book for Thursday night’s game. McKinnon had multiple receptions for at least 31 yards in four of Kansas City’s final five regular-season games last season. With Kelce either out or limited, McKinnon will likely play a significant role in the passing game out of the backfield.

The Lions made it clear they want to be in the position the Chiefs are in, at the top of the NFL heap glaring down on challengers.

“The guys know all that. They understand that; that’s how they work,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. “They’re not going to change that part, that comes with the territory, and you’ve got to make sure you’re ready.”

Mahomes arrived to training camp with a clenched jaw, challenging teammates to fight to overcome complacency. He’s one player Reid won’t doubt is ready on Thursday. And Mahomes thrives in season openers. He has five three-plus-TD games in five starts with 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions cumulatively in Week 1.

Kansas City rules the AFC West and has hosted five consecutive AFC Championship games.

Detroit is buying into coach Dan Campbell’s team, selling out season tickets to Ford Field for the first time in the history of the stadium and maintaining optimism quarterback Jared Goff and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson can keep their rhythm from the second half of last season.

“It’s fun being here in a city with all this excitement,” Goff said. “That being said, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win. I think we all know that. I know that. I’ve been on winning teams. I’ve been on losing teams. People will continue to be excited if we continue to win. Winning fixes everything, as they say.”

Goff had 29 touchdown passes last season but the Lions lost most of their proven point producers from 2022. Running back Jamaal Williams scored 17 touchdowns and rushed for 1,066 yards. D’Andre Swift had five rushing touchdowns and three receiving TDs and was the second-leading receiver on the team (48 receptions) to Amon-Ra St. Brown (106 receptions, 1,161 yards).

Campbell wants his team’s success to come down to a polished and powerful offensive line and a defensive line built around 2022 No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson. He led the team with 9.5 sacks as a rookie.

General manager Brad Holmes selected running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round of the 2023 draft, bolstered the depth on the defensive line and found playmakers at positions of need in the offseason.

“We feel even more confident that we’ll be able to compete with the big dogs,” Holmes said. “There’s not a better test than that first opener. I mean, they’re the champs.”

–9-1: Kansas City’s record in regular-season openers under coach Andy Reid. By contrast, Detroit lost its opener last year en route to a 1-6 start.
–Reid’s next win will be his 270th in the NFL (including playoffs), which would tie Cowboys legend Tom Landry for fourth all-time in victories as an NFL head coach.

Whether Kelce will be on the field to help Mahomes extend his string of fast starts became unclear Tuesday. Reid said Kelce hyperextended a knee during practice. Kelce was listed as a limited participant in practice, and multiple reports on Thursday indicated he is truly a game-time decision.

The Chiefs also listed wide receiver Kadarius Toney (knee) and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (knee) as limited at Wednesday’s practice. The Lions’ only limited participant was cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (knee).

–“Make him go backwards and never turn around where he can throw back that way. That would be about the best way to sum it up. Yeah, look, this guy is — he’s tough. That’s the easy answer to all this. He is a highly competitive, highly instinctive aware player.” — Campbell on Mahomes, whom he called “the engine” of the Chiefs.
–“As sick as it sounds, I’m over last year. I’m ready to keep things moving forward. You know, I think it will be cool for the fans, for the Hunt Family to be able to put another banner up, and that’ll be a moment for them. For me right now, I’m focused on beating the Detroit Lions, not really focused on any of the other stuff that goes on for the first game of the year.” –Kelce on the Super Bowl banner-raising ceremony pregame.

–Field Level Media