Will Lions Finally Live Up To Michigan Sportsbooks Expectations?

Will Lions Finally Live Up To Michigan Sportsbooks Expectations?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The Detroit Lions enter the new NFL season with a rare distinction for them.

The Lions, in addition to being the favorite to win the NFC North, are also a mere 20-to-1 (or +2000) on BetMGM Michigan Sportsbook to win the Super Bowl, which will be next February in Las Vegas. The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs (+650), Philadelphia Eagles (+700) and Buffalo Bills (+800) are the Super Bowl futures favorites as of Tuesday.

However, the Lions – who have appeared in exactly zero Super Bowls and have not won an NFL championship since before man went into space – are being given what they have rarely experienced, plausible odds of winning the Lombardi Trophy.

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Preseason Hopes Have Tended To Fade

But optimistic preseason expectations have never materialized for the Lions. BetMichigan.com took a look back at how the Lions have fared in similar situations, dating from well before Michigan sports betting was legal and regulated as it is now.

Using data from SportsOddsHistory.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com, BetMichigan.com found every season (since data was made available in 1977) in which the Lions entered a season with Super Bowl odds at +3000 or lower, and where they finished.

Spoiler alert: They made the playoffs just three times in those 16 seasons.

Lions' Best Super Bowl Odds & How They Did

Year Preseason Odds How Lions Fared
1993 +1500 10-6, Won NFC North, Lost in Wild Card Round
1996 +1500 5-11, Missed Playoffs
1992 +1800 5-11, Missed Playoffs
1981 +2000 8-8, Missed Playoffs
1982 +2000 4-5, Missed Playoffs
1983 +2000 9-7, Won NFC North, Lost in Divisional Round
1984 +2000 4-11-1, Missed Playoffs
1990 +2200 6-10, Missed Playoffs
2012 +2200 4-12, Missed Playoffs
1977 +2500 6-8, Missed Playoffs
1978 +2500 7-9, Missed Playoffs
1980 +3000 9-7, Missed Playoffs
1997 +3000 9-7, Second NFC Wild Card, Lost in WC Round
1998 +3000 5-11, Missed Playoffs
2001 +3000 2-14, Missed Playoffs
2015 +3000 7-9, Missed Playoffs

Even +1500 Odds Were Too Optimistic

The two seasons for which the Lions had the lowest preseason odds to win the Super Bowl, 1993 and 1996, +1500), were in the Wayne Fontes era in Detroit. In 1992, their chances were +1800, according to SportsOddsHistory.com.

The ’93 team went 10-6 but lost in the Wild Card round. The ’92 and ’96 teams missed the playoffs with 5-11 records.

Fontes was the Lions head coach from 1988-96. Over that time, he was 67-71, including five playoff games, and holds the franchise record for most wins and most losses. It also marked a stretch when the Lions went to the playoffs four times, perhaps an admirable accomplishment considering the franchise’s last NFL title was in 1957.

Can the Lions go where they have never been since the 1950s and finally bring home an NFL championship this season? Stay right here to track the Lions Super Bowl odds all season.

Barry Sanders Gave Franchise Hope

Not so coincidentally, the 1990s were also the main part of the Barry Sanders era. The Hall of Fame running back, along with wide receiver Herman Moore, should be credited greatly with whatever success the Lions were predicted for, or achieved, when Fontes was the coach.

The Fontes-Sanders Lions were occasionally assigned high preseason expectations by oddsmakers and made the playoffs four times. Unfortunately for Lions fans, the franchise was 1-4 in the postseason – an outcome that certainly hastened Sanders’ retirement following the 1998 season after 10 straight Pro Bowl campaigns (to follow the Lions playoff chances in 2023, stay with BetMichigan).

Detroit made the playoffs one more time during Sanders’ NFL career, in 1997, Sanders rushing for 2,000 yards under head coach Bobby Ross. But the Lions again suffered a first-round exit, this time to Tampa Bay, despite Sanders’ 108 scrimmage yards (alas, a man can only do so much).

Lions Current NFC North Betting Favorites

In all, the Lions had preseason odds to win the Super of +3000 or lower 16 times since 1977. Over those 16 seasons when they had competitive Super Bowl futures odds, they actually made the playoffs just three times. They are currently NFC North favorites at Michigan sportsbook apps.

The highest playoff rung the Lions have reached has been the Conference Round in 1991 season, when their preseason Super Bowl futures odds were +4000. In the 1991 playoffs, the Lions won their only playoff game of the Super Bowl era – a Wild Card rout over Dallas, 38-6 – but they were then crushed by eventual Super Bowl winner Washington, 41-10.

For most of those seasons when the Lions had +3000 preseason Super Bowl odds or better, folks wanting to place a wager on Detroit had to go all the way to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. But now fans in the Great Lakes State can take advantage of the best Michigan sports betting promos from various online operators of they feel optimistic about this finally being the Year of the Lion.



Bill Ordine, senior journalist and columnist for BetMichigan.com, was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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