The Detroit Lions (5-1) look to recover from the first loss of their season last week as they play host to the Atlanta Falcons (3-3), who have their sights set on stringing together their first winning streak of the season as the two teams clash at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan today. After starting out 5-0, their best start in 55 years, the Detroit Lions come into today’s game at home hungry and confident of getting back into the win column, though they could be in a lopsided battle in the running game today as starting back Jahvid Best sits with a concussion, meanwhile Atlanta’s Michael Turner figures to be a huge part of the Falcons game plan on the road. Already struggling to find consistency in the run game ranking 25th in the league with just 90.8 rushing yards per game, the loss of the improving Best turns the focus of offensive production back on Detroit’s young starter Matthew Stafford, and his highly prized target Calvin Johnson. With the Atlanta defense putting their best foot forward against the run this season (ranking 7th, allowing just 97.5 yards/game), all Detroit’s sights are set back towards Johnson, who will try to get back on the touchdown train this week after being shutdown in a 25-19 loss against San Francisco last Sunday.
This game features an interesting match-up on both sides of the ball, with both teams excelling in areas where the other team has a weakness, and vice-versa. For Atlanta, the run-heavy game plan has returned after last week’s 31-17 win over Carolina in which the Falcons ran the ball 35 times to just 23 passing plays. Michael Turner finally felt like the ‘Burner’ we all know, turning in a 27-carry, 139 yard with 2 TDs performance against the Panthers, something that no doubt Atlanta would like to be able to repeat this Sunday. Though Detroit has one of the best looking defensive lines on paper, and has been very good in the pass rush this season, opposing running haven’t seemed to be too intimidated, racking up 129.5 yards per game on the ground to give the Lions a 26th place ranking amongst the NFL defenses. With Atlanta starting slow in the run game, but improving to 16th in the league with 110 yards/game, we can expect the Falcons to test the running waters early and often in order to keep the ball away from the explosive passing game of the Detroit Lions today.
That passing game is where Detroit will make or break itself today, seeing as though the running back by committee of Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams will likely find tough sledding against a solid Atlanta Falcons defensive front. However, Detroit is in luck for this match-up with Matthew Stafford at the helm and plenty of receiving weapons at his disposal including the above-mentioned ‘Megatron’, TE Brandon Pettigrew and the quick and slippery wide out Nate Burleson in the mix. Atlanta ranks 27th in the defensive passing game this year, allowing 283 yards/game while Detroit is putting up 277 yards/game of passing thus far. One area the Falcons will look to exploit is pressure on the quarterback, which seemed to work well for the 49ers last week, who sacked Stafford five times and held Calvin Johnson to ‘just’ 7 catches and 113 yards. However, ranking 25th in sacks (10 on the season), and having no real answer in the defensive secondary for the 6’5″ Johnson (Atlanta’s tallest secondary member is the 6’2″ safety Thomas DeCoud), this could be a game in which we see lots of offense produced in the Lions passing game, and conversely lots of offense produced by the Atlanta ground attack. At the bottom line, it could come down to simple matters such as ball possession and turnovers, but in this first meeting between the two teams since 2008, with a series heavily in favor of Detroit at home (15-4 all-time), there’s no doubt both side will bring their best feet forward in what should be a great game this afternoon.
Betting Lines for the Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons
Sportsbetting.ag is our featured online sportsbook for this Sunday’s NFL Football action, and coming in to this match-up the home team Detroit Lions get the nod as the favorite with -245 odds to win on the money line. Though Atlanta has struggled on the road (1-2), and likely that is why they are a +205 underdog in today’s game, a surge in their running game could change their fortunes in this game, and for games to come, provided their defense can stand up to a very pass-heavy attack likely from the Lions today. On the points spread, Detroit gives up 4.5 points while Atlanta takes 4.5 points their way, something that could be well covered by Atlanta if Michael Turner goes anywhere near his personal record 220 yards rushing he put up against the Lions in 2008. If that is the case as well, we could also see the 47 points set for the over/under become a hard mark to reach, provided Atlanta stays to pounding the ball and can dictate the game’s pace. However, if Detroit controls the passing game like they can do, and is able to exploit the weak Atlanta secondary all day, this could end up being a high scoring contest that will quickly go Detroit’s way if Calvin Johnson has one of his usual outings against a small defensive secondary.
Our Pick to Win:
Though Atlanta is likely to find success in the ground game today, it’s going to be on quarterback Matt Ryan to pull his team to victory against the Lions this Sunday. Ryan is notorious for being substandard on the road, although this season he’s been more of mediocre all around, which at least is consistent (8 TDs, 6 INTs, 82.1 passer rating). If Ryan can avoid the big interception and make a few deep plays to wide outs Roddy White and Julio Jones, Atlanta could ride the steady pounding of Michael Turner to victory. However, at home Detroit has been good at putting up points, behind Matthew Stafford’s consistency (15:4 TD-to-INT ratio, 98.2 passer rating, the hot hands of Calvin Johnson, and their ability to come from behind and overcome adversity against just about any opponent they face. We’re looking for a scrappy, hard hitting game today that ends in Detroit’s favor, and will take the Lions to cover the spread with a 35-21 win at home today.