I am picking the Lions in this game, but only for the first half. The quarterbacks that will take the field in the second half (for both teams) are simply too sketchy.
The line has since come down to -3.5, and it might come down more before kickoff, but I feel much better about sticking with the -3 first half line.
CoachingA big reason to like the Lions in this spot is thanks to the approaches these coaches take in the preseason. Jim Schwartz likes to win these games for whatever reason as his 12-4 straight up and 11-5 against the spread records indicate.
Rex Ryan has a dismal 6-10 straight up record and he's 7-9 against the spread.
QuarterbacksThe other reason to love the Lions in the first half is what's going on at the QB position. Usually a quarterback battle is a good thing for these games, but not when your name is Mark Sanchez. He has his moments, but let's face it, the guy isn't very good.
In relief, Geno Smith is not backing down from the challenge and openly proclaiming his chances to win the starting job with the media. You have to like his confidence and he has a strong arm to go along with his athleticism, but he's a rookie and not experienced facing NFL defenses in live action.
Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford knows how to move the chains and put points on the board. He's only going to be in for a couple of series, but behind him is what many consider the best pure backup quarterback in the league (ignoring prospects). Shaun Hill knows this offense and should feel right at home taking snaps to finish out the half.
The Jets do have the better defense, but when it's a question of Sanchez/G Smith vs Stafford/Hill, I know who I'm banking on.
MotivationBoth coaches are experienced with their respective clubs, but they also have different approaches to the exhibition season. When the Lions were winning, Schwartz won preseason games. When his team had a down year, he still won preseason games.
Rex Ryan doesn't appear to care about results and he's a perfect 0-4 in preseason openers during his time with the Jets.
Keep an eye one ...The Lions running back battle. Reggie Bush was a nice addition for the type of offense the Lions like to run, but there is quality depth behind him, too. Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure are battling it out for playing time behind him, and both can produce.
"Megatron" vs "Megacorner". At least that's the way Rex Ryan put it. Calvin Johnson will be going against Antonio Cromartie, and don't be surprised if they rotate in their number one pick Dee Milliner, too.
Bottom LineI don't often play first half lines because of the variability involved. One kick return, pass interference, or fumble could be the difference. But this is a quarterback/coaching matchup that I can't overlook. I don't know what will happen beyond halftime with names like Simms, McElroy, Moore, and Lewis, but I do like all the factors that favor the Lions in the first half. It also can't hurt that they're at home.
NFL Pick: DET -3 1st H (+100).