The Detroit Lions finished the 2021 NFL season with a 3-13-1 record, second worst in the NFL. While many wouldn’t expect the Lions to be one of the most bet on teams heading into the 2022 NFL season, the Lions are attracting bets across a number of categories, likely influenced by being the featured team on NFL Hard Knocks.
What Happened: The Lions were selected as the team to be featured on “Hard Knocks,” an award-winning documentary type series that follows one NFL team during the offseason through training camp and preseason.
The show airs on HBO and HBO Max, both owned by Warner Bros. Discovery WBD. The show featured head coach Dan Campbell, who enters 2022 as his second year leading the Lions, and included prominent coverage of Aidan Hutchinson, the Lions' top rookie and number two overall draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Both Hutchinson and Campbell have received plenty of attention from bettors ahead of the 2022 NFL season.
“The 2022 Detroit Lions will be the team that CAN and WILL,” Campbell said in the finale of “Hard Knocks.”
Hard Knocks History: As Benzinga previously reported, an appearance on “Hard Knocks” doesn’t always mean a team will improve in the following season.
The NFL highlighted that eleven of the last thirteen teams that have been featured on Hard Knocks have posted improved records or equal records to the previous season. This includes the Cleveland Browns featured in the 2018 version when they went from 0-16 to a 7-8-1 record after being featured on Hard Knocks.
Here’s the performance from all the featured teams, with prior season record in parentheses:
• 2001 Baltimore Ravens: 10-6, made playoffs (12-4, won Super Bowl)
• 2002 Dallas Cowboys: 5-11 (5-11)
• 2007 Kansas City Chiefs: 4-12 (9-7, made playoffs)
• 2008 Dallas Cowboys: 9-7 (13-3, made playoffs)
• 2009 Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6, made playoffs (4-11-1)
• 2010 New York Jets: 11-5, made playoffs (9-7)
• 2012 Miami Dolphins: 7-9 (6-10)
• 2013 Cincinnati Bengals: 11-5, made playoffs (10-6, made playoffs)
• 2014 Atlanta Falcons: 6-10 (4-12)
• 2015 Houston Texans: 9-7, made playoffs (9-7, made playoffs)
• 2016 Los Angeles Rams: 4-12 (7-9)
• 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-11 (9-7)
• 2018 Cleveland Browns: 7-8-1 (0-16)
• 2019 Oakland Raiders: 7-9 (4-12)
• 2020 Los Angeles Chargers: 7-9 (5-11)
• 2020 Los Angeles Rams: 10-6, made playoffs (9-7)
• 2021 Dallas Cowboys: 12-5, made playoffs (6-10)
• 2021 Indianapolis Colts (in-season series, not pre-season): 9-8 (11-5, made playoffs)
The records show why the NFL highlighted the last 13 teams to appear on the show, as the first four teams featured had a drop or equal number of wins from the previous season. This came as the show featured three playoff teams in the first four seasons.
Across 17 teams featured, nine had a gain in wins, two stayed the same and six saw a drop in wins after being featured on Hard Knocks. Across all 17 teams, the average gain was 0.59 wins. Not counting the first four featured teams, the average wins gained was 1.46.
Four of the teams featured on the show made the playoffs after previously missing them, but these teams also had records of 9-7, 9-7, 6-10 and 4-11-1 in the previous season.
Betting Odds Increase for Lions: With the appearance of the Lions on Hard Knocks, the team has gained interest from bettors.
Campbell is one of the favorites to win Coach of the Year with odds of +1600, ranking second of all coaches at DraftKings Inc DKNG.
Prior to “Hard Knocks,” Campbell was already climbing up the Coach of the Year odds, with many sportsbooks reporting a heavy increase in bets on the Lions' head coach.
BetMGM, a joint venture from Entain and MGM Resorts International MGM, reported earlier this year that Campbell was the most popular Coach of the Year bet with 30.7% of all bets. In Michigan, where the Lions play, Campbell had 73% of all Coach of the Year bets and was BetMGM’s biggest liability, as reported earlier this year.
The last Lions coach to win Coach of the Year was Wayne Fontes in 1991 with a 12-4 record. George Wilson also won the award as the Lions coach in 1957 with an 8-4 record.
Since 1990, coaches had at least 10 wins or more to receive the award, except for Bruce Arians who won with a 9-3 record after he took over as interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Lions will likely need at least 9 to 10 wins for Campbell to get strong consideration. The Lions have posted a record of 17-46-2 over the last four seasons. The team last made the NFL Playoffs in the 2016 season and has not won a playoff matchup since 1991.
At Caesars Entertainment CZR, Hutchinson ranks as the favorite to win defensive rookie of the year at odds of +450. Hutchinson was the second overall pick and is predicted to start from day one, which would likely make him a strong candidate. Add in the multiple appearances and focus on his family on “Hard Knocks,” and bettors are now buying into the storyline and his strong play in the preseason and training camp.
What’s Next: The Lions kick off the 2022 NFL season with a home matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Sept. 11. The Lions are four point underdogs and look to keep their strong against-the-spread record in place along with improving on their overall win total.
While the Lions finished 3-13-1 last season, they were 11-6 against the spread, which was the best performance by a team with three or fewer wins in the last 35 seasons, according to data from Caesars shared with Benzinga. Only one other team had an against-the-spread record of 50% or better with three or fewer wins in the same time period, the 2001 Lions, who went 8-7-1 against the spread and 2-14 overall.
The over/under on the Lions for the 2022 NFL season was listed at 6 wins for many sportsbooks and is now up to 6.5 across many of them. The Lions will likely be a strong betting pick to improve on their 2021 season, but history shows that “Hard Knocks” doesn’t always lead to a rebound performance.
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