What Is Ceiling for Lions After Upset Win Over Champs?

What Is Ceiling for Lions After Upset Win Over Champs?
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

The Detroit Lions went into Thursday night’s NFL regular-season opener as NFC North favorites among Michigan sports betting operators, and a team drawing a lot of preseason praise. That hype, at least through one game, was deserved.

The Lions went into Kansas City and defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs 21-20 to kick off Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season.

So what comes next? If history is any guide, good things for the Lions. Here is a list of teams that defeated the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 1 over the past 20 years, and how they fared for the rest of the season.

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Teams Beating Champs in Week 1 Since '04

Year Team, result Spread Final Record, Playoffs
2023 Lions beat Chiefs 21-20 Lions +4.5 TBD
2022 Bills beat Rams 31-10 Bills -2.5 13-3, Lost Division Round
2017 Chiefs beat Patriots 42-27 Chiefs +8 10-6, Lost Wild Card Round
2013 Broncos beat Ravens 49-27 Broncos -7.5 13-3, Lost Super Bowl
2012 Cowboys beat Giants 24-17 Cowboys +4 8-8, Missed Playoffs

How Will Win Boost Lions Playoff Chances?

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Only five of the past 20 defending Super Bowl champions lost their opener the next season, including Thursday night when the Lions beat the Chiefs. How did the other four teams that knocked off the defending champs to start their season 1-0 fare for the rest of the season?

If history is any indicator, Lions fans should feel good. Of the four previous teams on this list, three went to the playoffs and one reached the Super Bowl.

Just reaching the postseason would be progress for a franchise that has not done so since 2016. Track the Detroit Lions playoff chances all year at BetMichigan.com.

Recent History Bodes Well For Lions

Of the four previous teams to open by defeating the reigning champions since 2004, the only one to miss the playoffs was the 2012 Cowboys. Dallas beat the New York Giants 24-17 but finished 8-8, the second of three consecutive .500 seasons under coach Jason Garrett.

A Super Bowl champ lost in Week 1 in 2013, as the Broncos defeated the visiting Ravens 49-27 (a scheduling conflict forced Baltimore to open on the road, bucking the trend in recent years of the Vince Lombardi Trophy holders opening at home on Thursday night on national television). Denver went on to reach Super Bowl XLVIII but got blown out by the Seattle Seahawks.

We’ll follow Detroit Lions Super Bowl odds all season at BetMichigan.com.

In 2017, the Chiefs scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to rally for a 42-27 victory over the New England Patriots. Kansas City (10-6) won the AFC West, but their season ended in a thud with a 10-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the postseason.

A similar fate awaited the Buffalo Bills last season after they opened by defeating the Rams 31-10 in Los Angeles. Buffalo won the AFC East and defeated Miami in the Wild Card round, but lost to Cincinnati in the Division Round.

One oddity regarding this list: According to SportsOddsHistory.com, two of the five teams to beat a defending champion in Week 1 did so as the favorite. As mentioned, Denver got to open at home against Baltimore in 2013 and went off as a 7.5-point favorite (and covered). The Bills also won and covered the point spread last season against the Rams. The Chiefs were favored by 4.5 points at several Michigan sports betting apps going into Thursday’s game.



Jim Tomlin writes and edits for BetMichigan.com. In 30 years as a journalist he has worked for publications such as the Tampa Bay Times, Saturday Tradition, Saturday Down South and FanRag. He now lends his sports and gambling expertise to BetMichigan among other websites.

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