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Thursday Night Football best bets: A pivotal battle in the NFC North

Todd Rosenberg / Getty Images Sport / Getty

This isn't your father's Thursday nighter, nor your older brothers'. Heck, it's not even your TNF matchup from any other week. This is a big one.

Lions-Packers will alter the odds markets for the NFC North, NFC Conference, and Coach of the Year. Throw in the rematch element of last year's regular-season closer that was comparably pivotal, and as the kids say these days - it's going to be a movie. This means we don't need any other bells and whistles for a game that's going to be all business for many of the bets we made before the season started:

Packers (+170) to make the playoffs
Packers (+375) to win the NFC North
Matt Lafleur (+1600) to win Coach of the Year

Lions @ Packers (+1, 45.5)

The above bets were made based on a pair of premises.

  1. The Vikings and Bears aren't good and won't challenge for the division or the playoffs. They're a combined 0-6.
  2. There's not much difference between the Lions and Packers, and certainly not enough to warrant Detroit (+175) having a 36.4% implied win probability and Green Bay (+375) having a 21.1% implied win probability.

Both teams are 2-1, with the Lions taking advantage of the Chiefs missing two of their three best players and getting Desmond Ridder's first road start this season.

The Packers' record could have been 3-0 had they closed out the Falcons in Atlanta. Part of that inability might stem from the team's injury issues, with Christian Watson missing the first three games and Aaron Jones' absence hurting Green Bay's chances to run out the clock with a lead.

Green Bay likely wasn't saving its injured players by holding them out last week against the Saints. However, with such a high-leverage game on tap, a smart team would be less apt to rush any of them back.

The Packers took a while to get their offense going against New Orleans. But if you watch the game back, there were instances when various creative plays should have worked better than they did.

The Lions aren't without their injuries, particularly on the offensive line. If the strength of their team is compromised in what should be a hostile environment, these two teams should be rated even tighter than this point spread suggests. After injuries are announced, the favorite may even flip, so buying the Packers now - as it was before the season - is the more valuable play.

Pick: Packers (+1)

Jordan Love: Over 16.5 rushing yards (-120)

The Lions have done well in defending the run, allowing 3.2 yards per carry this season, so even if Jones is back, the traditional run game may not work for Green Bay. The Packers will throw dump-offs to Jones, but they'll also use Love in read-option plays. It should also suit Green Bay to throw more. If it does, Love will have more opportunities to scramble.

Love's used his legs increasingly as he's gotten more comfortable as a full-time starter.

Week 1 (@CHI) 12
Week 2 (@ATL) 23
Week 3 (NO) 39

Love took off nine times in last week's 39-yard day. Against Patrick Mahomes, Geno Smith, and Desmond Ridder this season, the Lions have allowed 6.2 yards per carry to those opposing quarterbacks. Just three carries might get this done for Love.

Christian Watson: Anytime touchdown (+235)

Let's not overcomplicate things. Love has found six wide receivers for touchdowns in three games this campaign, so his touchdown passes aren't a result of conservative plays. Assuming Watson does play (and if he doesn't, this bet should be voided), being on the field makes him a candidate for a TD catch. As the nominal No. 1 receiver when healthy, Watson should be priced shorter than +200.

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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