Top 9 Best NFL Franchise Moves: Are The Detroit Lions Better Off?

Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Franchise moves once were more common than they are now, especially in the NFL. Today, billion-dollar television deals give teams stability, but this is a league that was founded before television.

For instance, the Lions have spent 90 seasons in Detroit, way before Michigan sports betting was legal and regulated. But before that the played in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. BetMichigan.com wanted to know where the Lions rank among franchise moves. Here’s a list, with an explanation below.

Best NFL Franchise Moves

Rank

Team (Past Home/Name)

Avg. Win-Loss % Change

1

Los Angeles Rams (St. Louis Rams)

.141 up

2

Las Vegas Raiders (Oakland Raiders)

.078 up

3

Tennessee Titans (Houston Oilers)

.055 up

4

Washington Commanders (Boston Redskins)

.031 up

5

Los Angeles Chargers (San Diego Chargers)

.003 up

6

Indianapolis Colts (Baltimore Colts)

.013 down

7

Kansas City Chiefs (Dallas Texans)

.049 down

8

Arizona Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)

.074 down

9

Detroit Lions (Portsmouth Spartans)

.187 down

Franchise moves, then and now, typically make financial sense – but it doesn’t always improve fortunes on the field. BetMichigan, your source for the best Michigan sportsbook promos, used data from Sports-Reference.com to identify nine NFL teams that were in a prior city for at least two seasons before they moved to their current town. We then ranked the franchises based on their winning percentage before and after the move.

Note: We only account for the past two cities for any franchise (so for the Cardinals we compare their winning percentage in St. Louis vs. Arizona, not counting their years in Chicago). Also, the NFL considers the Ravens a “new” franchise so we didn’t count their move from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996. Finally, we only tabulated numbers for the Rams during their current current tenure in Los Angeles (2016-24), not their first run there (1946-94) and the Raiders’ numbers only are tabulated from their second tenure in Oakland (1995-2019), not their time there from 1960-81.

Before and during the 2024 NFL season, you can track Detroit Lions playoff chances with us at BetMichigan.com.

Where Lions Rank On List Of Relocations

In the early days after the NFL formed, right after World War I, some teams were lucky to survive a year or two. Usually, those teams just folded, but some moved to another town. That was the case with the Portsmouth Spartans, a Depression-era NFL team from southern Ohio which needed a new owner back in 1934.

Since then, they’ve been known as the Detroit Lions, a team that just happens to be a contender for Super Bowl LIX, according to several Michigan sports betting apps operators.

Still, the Lions finished last in our list of franchises that have moved, with their winning percentage dipping by .187 compared to their four-year stint in Portsmouth.

Lions Struggled For Decades

Now, we’ll acknowledge the obvious. It’s unfair to compare the four seasons in Portsmouth, where they went 28-16-7, to the 90 in Detroit, where they’ve since compiled a record of 563-691-27. Initially, the move paid off as the Lions won their first NFL championship in 1935, their second season in the Motor City. The franchise won three more league championships in the 1950s (see our Detroit Lions Super Bowl odds for the latest on the 2024 season).

After the 1950s, the Lions were mostly known for futility, despite having players like Billy Sims, Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson adorn the blue and silver. Last season marked Detroit’s first division title in 30 years. Between those years, the Lions made the playoffs just seven times, losing each time in the Wild Card round. They also had eight seasons with four or fewer wins, including the NFL’s first 0-16 campaign in 2008.

2024 Detroit Lions Odds

Still, as we noted at the top, optimism abounds in the Mitten State. Caesars Michigan Sportsbook has made the Lions the +145 favorite to win the division again, a feat they last accomplished when they won three in a row from 1952 to 1954. Oddsmakers at Caesars have also set the Lions’ win total for 2024 at 10.5, with the over a slight -120 favorite against the even-odds under.

It’s a new era under coach Dan Campbell, who last season led the Lions to their first NFC Championship Game appearance since 1991. With players like Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jared Goff on offense and free agent signee D.J. Reader to anchor the defense, there’s reason to believe last season was not a blip.

BetMGM Michigan Sportsbook lists the Lions with the fourth-lowest Super Bowl odds, at +1200, and their +550 odds for winning the NFC are second only to the San Francisco 49ers (+275).

USA Today photo by Junfu Han

Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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