Thursday Night Football: Lions-Packers betting preview (odds, lines, best bets)

2RMAW5J Green Bay Packers tight end Luke Musgrave (88) a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

• Best bet: TE Luke Musgrave over 3.5 receptions.

• Lions struggling against tight ends: There is room for tight ends to play against this Lions defense. And unlike any of the other teams that have played against Detroit so far, there is no competition for targets on this Packers roster.

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GAME OVERVIEW

The Green Bay Packers head into Thursday Night Football on a high, having completed a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.

Key players were missing from that game, with star cornerback Jaire Alexander and offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins on the sidelines. Unfortunately for Green Bay, it looks as if all three of those players will be unavailable again, with recent reports indicating that Alexander will soon be the last to be ruled out.

Right tackle Zach Tom, another key Packers offensive lineman, has been dealing with a new injury and has been limited in practice all week. His potential absence would leave Green Bay with a makeshift offensive line consisting of seventh-round draft pick Rasheed Walker at left tackle, Royce Newman, Josh Myers and Jon Runyan on the interior and backup Yosh Nijman at right tackle

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There is good news for Packers fans, as exceptional second-year wide receiver Christian Watson is expected to return. However, there should be some reservations about his ability to play a high number of snaps on a still-recovering hamstring, and his real star ability has often come against man coverage rather than zone, as he's generated 3.32 yards per route run against man coverage compared to 1.77 versus zone.

Detroit has moved away from man coverage to a large extent, so this may not be the welcome-back party Packers fans may be hoping for. What he will do, though, is take some defensive focus away from other strong receivers who have shown a decent level of ability against zone defenses already this year.

Aaron Jones is also likely to return to offer some explosive playmaking ability out of the backfield, something A.J. Dillon does not necessarily possess.

The Lions are dealing with offensive line issues of their own, with Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Matt Nelson already ruled out, starting left tackle Taylor Decker‘s return in question and Jonah Jackson limited in practice all week.

If Taylor Decker is ruled out, Penei Sewell will likely play at left tackle and fifth-round rookie left guard Colby Sorsdal will step in as the right tackle. Sorsdal played 15 snaps at the position in Week 3, giving up two pressures and earning a 41.0 pass-blocking grade. Kayode Awosika would be in line to play left guard if both Decker and Jackson were out. 

PFF's Best Bets Tool uses PFF data to uncover the biggest edges in the betting market. Click here to see the best bets for this game.

TE Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers: Over 3.5 Receptions (+118 Caesars)

Aaron Jones‘ return may negatively impact Musgrave’s usage, but he has run more routes than any other Packers pass-catcher over the last three games and caught three passes for 50 yards in his debut with Jones on the field.

Most routes run by Packers players since Week 1
Name Position Routes run Target rate
Luke Musgrave TE 89 16.9%
Romeo Doubs WR 84 22.6%
Jayden Reed WR 74 24.3%
Dontayvion Wicks WR 69 17.4%
AJ Dillon HB 46 8.7%
Samori Toure WR 43 18.6%
Patrick Taylor HB 31 16.1%
Malik Heath WR 21 19.1%
Aaron Jones HB 16 25.0%
Josiah Deguara TE 13 15.4%
Tucker Kraft TE 8 0.0%
Emanuel Wilson HB 5 20.0%
Ben Sims TE 1 0.0%

Musgrave has the dream matchup against a Lions coverage unit that has struggled against tight ends each week.

Travis Kelce missed the opening game against the Lions, but his replacements, Noah Gray and Blake Bell, combined for five catches on eight targets on a night in which nothing went right for the Chiefs. Seattle’s tight ends then combined for nine catches and 132 yards in Week 2, with five of those catches going for at least 15 yards. Last week, Atlanta tight ends Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith grabbed 11 catches on a combined 18 targets.

Detroit Lions: Production allowed to tight ends this season
Week Opp. Targets Receptions Yards First downs +
touchdowns
Yards per reception Passer rating
Week 1 Falcons 8 5 43 2 8.6 116.1
Week 2 Chiefs 9 9 132 6 14.7 118.8
Week 3 Seahawks 18 11 88 4 8.0 73.4

There is room for tight ends to play against this Lions defense. And unlike any of the other teams that have played against them so far, there is no competition for targets on this Packers roster. Josiah Deguara, Tucker Kraft and Ben Sims are the backups, but they have played 21 snaps between them through three weeks. 

It is also worth noting that Luke Musgrave has played 56 snaps against zone coverage, catching nine of his 13 targets for 104 yards and an average of 1.86 yards per route run. Against man coverage, he has caught just two passes on 30 snaps, averaging 0.67 yards per route run.

Detroit has run zone schemes on more than 70% of defensive snaps this season, and that is unlikely to change with Christian Watson back in the Packers' starting lineup. 

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