Lions Get The ‘Hard Knocks’ Bounce, But What’s It All Mean, Man?

Behold Dan Campbell, for he is man.

As runaway star of the current season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, the Detroit Lions’ second-year head coach seems to dwarf his charges on the practice field, with arms and upper body rippling beneath a dynamic collection of solid-color T-shirts.

Spouting f-bombs and “brothers” in equal measure, Campbell’s fire-‘em-up sermons are wacky and jacked to the max, as though Jeff Bridges bumped into Hulk Hogan and said, “Hey, man, we should join forces in your body, but with my face, and split the difference on the voice.”

But whereas the Dude might reach for some ganja, kick back on a tattered couch, and surf the tube, Campbell, according to The Athletic, heads in the opposite direction to start his day.

He famously says good morning with a Venti Starbucks coffee with two shots of espresso, followed by another, for a total of 820 milligrams of caffeine (one cup of coffee has 95 mg). The Copenhagen long cut he buys from 7-Eleven down the street — the owner started carrying it expressly for him — adds to the buzz.

Chawin’ tobacky? Hell to the yell! And when it comes time to relax, Camp Campbell summons some sweets and a lap full of lappy-happy dogs.

He gets his sugar later at night when he crushes two or three pints of Talenti Gelato — salted caramel truffle is his favorite — while watching game tape or Netflix. He shares with Thelma and Louise, the Campbells’ Teacup Yorkies, and Bird, their Catahoula leopard dog, so he isn’t consuming all 960 calories himself.

After a rare Lions win, one imagines Campbell shot-gunning a case of Natty Light in Bob Seger’s basement studio, singing Turn the Page at the top of his lungs while the Silver Bullet Bandleader just sits there and laughs, having long since graduated to sherry and Sade in the evening hours. The gelato Bob approves of, and around midnight, the two mustachioed Motowners are each on all fours, their tongues twisting in Talenti like Thelma and Louise.

Epic futility yields ‘a bunch of competence’

What can rightfully be called the Hard Knocks betting bounce has led to an inordinate amount of action on Lions futures this preseason. Hence, BetMGM’s single largest liability is on Detroit to win the NFC at 50/1. 

“There’s a bounce for almost everyone who’s featured on Hard Knocks,” explained PointsBet Trading Manager Sam Garriock. “It really is a credit to HBO that they can get people excited about the Lions. We’ve seen a bunch of Dan Campbell Coach of the Year [bets] because of his infectious energy.”

In that market, BetMGM has Campbell favored to win the award at 10/1, while most sportsbooks have him as the second choice behind the Chargers’ Brandon Staley at odds ranging from 14/1 at PointsBet — which priced him at 20/1 earlier this month, shortly after Hard Knocks premiered — to 16/1 (DraftKings and FanDuel).

Then again, anyone who wins Coach of the Year typically has to coax his team above .500 and into the postseason. And with the Lions’ win total set at a consensus 6.5 (+115 on the under at PointsBet) and their odds to make the playoffs ranging from +310 (PointsBet) to +410 (FanDuel), that doesn’t seem especially likely.

But from an oddsmaker’s perspective, there’s more to it than that.

“You kind of have to look at their playoff odds as a parlay,” said Garriock. “There aren’t too many worlds where he makes the playoffs with the freakin’ Detroit Lions and doesn’t win [Coach of the Year]. You’ve got a distribution of outcomes, of wins. What is the likelihood that the Lions win nine games? Given that, what is the likelihood that Campbell wins Coach of the Year?”

Either way, a 6.5-win projection represents a healthy step up in expectations for the Lions, who went 3-13-1 in Campbell’s first year at the helm.

“It’s no one real area that has us excited about the Lions. They now just have a bunch of competence, I suppose,” said Garriock. “It’s just a collection of talent — spending a lot of time at the bottom of the standings means you accrue a lot of talent through the draft. It does feel like the Lions have some hope this year for the first time in a long time.”

‘Comedy of errors’ redux?

In their final tilt of the preseason Sunday, the Lions will head to Pittsburgh as consensus 4.5-point underdogs (+175 on the moneyline at FanDuel) in a rematch of a spectacularly ugly 16-16 tie last year that the Detroit Free Press called “a comedy of errors” and Campbell compared to The Twilight Zone.

There’s no especially sophisticated rationale behind Sunday’s Lions-Steelers line, which is par for the course for preseason pricing.

“The thing with preseason football is you have to be really humble as a bookmaker,” said Garriock. “The market will tell you when things are about to move, and it’s almost always information-based. We will typically just kind of hang a number that’s pretty close to market and as soon as the sharper players start to hit us, we’ll move pretty aggressively.”

Photo: Junfu Han/USA TODAY

Author: Bradley King