It’s time for kickoff – not just between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, but also for the start of the 2023 NFL season.
Thursday night’s game at Arrowhead Stadium ushers in Week 1 and the start of a 272-game regular-season slate, with the defending-champion Chiefs taking on an upstart Lions team looking to establish its credentials as a potential contender. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes could have to shoulder a heavy load, as top target Travis Kelce will miss the game with a knee injury, while All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones will sit out the contest as he continues a contract holdout. But Detroit will have its own challenges as it seeks to hand Mahomes his first ever loss in an opener.
USA TODAY Sports will have live updates throughout the night, so check back often for all the latest news on the game:
Cameron Sutton’s penalty costs Lions in big way, but Lions hold tight on defense
The first Detroit penalty of the night proved to be a massive one.
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On first-and-10 from the Kansas City 34, Lions cornerback Cameron Sutton dropped back in coverage against wide receiver Justin Watson before running into him before the ball arrived. The play resulted in a clear pass interference call for 41 yards.
But with the ball at the Lions’ 17-yard line, Patrick Mahomes threw two incompletions, and the Chiefs settled for a 35-yard Harrison Butker field goal and a 17-14 lead.
Brian Branch’s pick-six of Patrick Mahomes pulls Lions even with Chiefs
Welcome to the NFL, Brian Branch.
The rookie out of Alabama intercepted Mahomes. Branch caught a pass that deflected off of Kadarius Toney’s hands and returned it 50 yards to the end zone. Branch’s pick-six tied the contest, 14-14.
It’s just the third pick-six of Mahomes’ career.
HALFTIME: Chiefs 14, Lions 7
Even without two of their biggest stars, the Chiefs are proving tough to stifle.
While Detroit racked up 188 yards and 11 first downs in the first half, Patrick Mahomes’ big plays – both as a passer and runner – vaulted the Chiefs to a 14-7 halftime lead over the Lions.
And though Mahomes didn’t connect on the kind of big plays that seemed far easier to come by with Travis Kelce in the lineup, he still boasts 147 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-17 passing in the first half.
Can the Lions find a way to rattle the reigning MVP in the second half? So far, they only have two quarterback hits against him.
Mahomes’ big plays spark Chiefs to another score, first lead over Lions
Operating in the two-minute drill, the Chiefs went on a six play, 82-yard touchdown drive late in the first half to take their first lead of the game.
On third-and-17 with a little over a minute remaining in the second quarter, Mahomes found wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 34-yard reception. Mahomes completed a 26-yard pass to WR Justin Watson on the next play to put the Chiefs inside the 5-yard line. The series was capped off when Mahomes passed to tight end Blake Bell for a four-yard touchdown to make the score 14-7.
Chiefs’ pass rush wakes up
With Chris Jones in a suite, Kansas City’s front four finally found a little juice.
Facing a third-and-5 from near midfield with three minutes left in the second quarter, Chiefs defensive end Mike Danna took down Jared Goff as the quarterback climbed the pocket, marking the team’s first sack of the night.
Lions fumble away red-zone opportunity
What looked to be another promising drive for Detroit came to an abrupt end.
On a third-and-10 from the Chiefs’ 17-yard line, Jared Goff found Marvin Jones Jr. on a quick hit – but Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie forced a fumble, which was then recovered by safety Bryan Cook.
The fumble was the first in Jones’ 11 NFL seasons.
On the following possession, however, the Lions forced a three-and-out.
Chiefs respond with more Mahomes magic for a score
The Chiefs answered Detroit’s touchdown drive with a TD of their own. The possession was highlighted by Patrick Mahomes’ ability to extend plays and scrambling skills.
Mahomes scrambled for 16 yards to get the Chiefs in a first and goal situation. Three plays later, Mahomes found rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice for a one-yard touchdown.
Lions score first with TD to Amon-Ra St. Brown
After a three-and-out on the opening possession, the Detroit Lions found their footing.
Jared Goff and Co. engineered an 18-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 6-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The drive was sparked in part by a bold call on fourth-and-2, when Detroit called for a fake punt and converted the attempt.
Chris Jones is at Arrowhead Stadium … but not to play
Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones is in attendance to witness Thursday’s season opener. According the NFL Network, Jones is in a suite at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium to watch the Chiefs raise their banner before the team takes on the Lions.
Perhaps Jones and Chiefs executives can bridge the gap in their contract negotiations during the game.
Could the Lions actually be …. good?
Detroit has waited a long time for a Lions team of this quality.
The last playoff win was in the 1991 season, and there’s been plenty of futility along the way. This year’s Lions team could be poised to end all that, but coach Dan Campbell doesn’t want his team distracted by the hype.
“I told them from Day 1, when we first arrived in camp,” Campbell told USA TODAY Sports, ” ‘Man, don’t buy into all the noise that’s out there and all these predictions. Don’t listen to that.’
“Because it’s all the same noise in a positive way that we were getting negatively when we were 1-6 last year: ‘We weren’t good enough. Your coach sucks. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. The quarterback can’t.’ We have to block that stuff out. That’s not reality. The reality is not what they’re saying now, and the reality wasn’t what they were saying when we were 1-6. We’re in the gray, man. Just live in the moment.”
Read more in Jarrett Bell’s column about this rare moment for the Lions and their fanbase.
Inactives for Lions, Chiefs released
Tight end Travis Kelce (knee) is officially inactive, the Chiefs announced. Noah Gray is expected to start for Kansas City at tight end. TE Blake Bell will also receive snaps.
CB Darius Rush, CB Nic Jones, DE BJ Thompson, OL Wanya Morris, T Lucas Niang and DT Neil Farrell are also inactive, the Chiefs announced.
Not among the inactives: DT Chris Jones, who could continue his holdout.
The Lions will be without cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (knee). DL Romeo Okwara, DL Isaiah Buggs, DL Brodric Martin and CB Steven Gilmore will join Moseley on Detroit’s inactive list.
Who steps up for Chiefs after Travis Kelce injury?
With Travis Kelce officially inactive for Thursday’s game against the Lions, the Chiefs could have a problem in their receiving corps. In a largely unproven collection of pass catchers, no one player from last year had more than 56 catches or 687 yards. But here are three candidates who could be in line for more looks:
WR Skyy Moore: A second-round pick in 2022, Moore already seemed like a strong bet for a heavier workload after his summer performance was lauded by both Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. He only played in 27% of the team’s snaps last year and only had more than four targets in two games, but the 5-10, 195-pounder could feature prominently into Thursday night’s plan.
TE Noah Gray: Next man up at tight end? No one will confuse the 2021 fifth-round pick out of Duke with Kelce, but there’s still room for Gray to play a substantial role in the passing attack, particularly as Mahomes looks to keep the offense on schedule without its most prominent weapon.
WR Kadarius Toney: There are high expectations for Toney this season after the departures of Tyreek Hill and JuJu Smith-Schuster in consectuive offseasons. He’s a versatile receiver who is explosive with the football, though he missed substantial time after having surgery for a torn meniscus. The Chiefs acquired Toney from the Giants last October, and he recorded 14 receptions, 171 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in seven regular-season games for Kansas City.
What time does Lions vs. Chiefs start on Thursday night?
Tonight’s kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
Travis Kelce injury update
The Chiefs tight end is officially inactive for Thursday’s game after he hyperextended his knee during practice on Tuesday, the team announced.
Lions vs. Chiefs predictions
Tyler Dragon: Chiefs 26, Lions 18
Defending Super Bowl champions historically have sluggish starts in season openers. And the Chiefs are expected to be without their best defensive player in Chris Jones. But Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, a young receiving corps and a scrappy defense should be enough to defeat the upstart Lions in front of a raucous Arrowhead crowd.
Lorenzo Reyes: Chiefs 27, Lions 23
The Lions, for the first time in forever, have a little bit of hype behind them. I expect they will compete with improved offensive weapons and a culture of expectation, but I have a hard time seeing them take this one, on the road, against the defending champs. I do think Detroit keeps it under a touchdown, however.
Lions vs. Chiefs betting odds
The Kansas City Chiefs are among the best bets for NFL Week 1 in their opening game against the visiting Detroit Lions. The defending Super Bowl champions are favored by 6.5 points, according to the BetMGM NFL odds. One of the best mobile sports betting apps, BetMGM is among those offering the top NFL betting promos in 2023.
According to the top NFL betting apps, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has some of the best NFL MVP betting odds after winning the award last season. The Chiefs also boast some of the best early Super Bowl betting odds.
The Lions, meanwhile, are one of the most popular NFL future bets after their impressive 2022 season. How far can Dan Campbell lead Detroit this season?
There is also plenty of interest around NFL prop bets when it comes to other forms of NFL wagering. One of the most popular NFL parlay bets is combining this game with the best Sunday Night Football odds and/or Monday Night Football odds.
Whether you’re still learning how to bet on sports or a seasoned sharp, USA TODAY readers can claim exclusive promos and bonus codes with the best online sportsbooks and sports betting sites. Our NFL betting guide can help you get started.
Is ‘Thursday Night Football’ still on Amazon Prime?
Tonight’s prime-time kickoff game between the Lions and Chiefs is on NBC, but “Thursday Night Football” will exclusively be on Amazon Prime Video beginning Week 2.
‘Thursday Night Football’ theme song
Fans will have to wait a little longer for the popular “Thursday Night Football” theme song since the season opener isn’t on Amazon Prime Video. The “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon Prime Video anthem is titled “Prime Video Sports Theme by Pinar Toprak.”
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