The Falcons 2017 tour of the NFC North continues with a week 3 game against the Detroit Lions in Michigan. The Falcons are coming off an impressive Sunday night victory against the Packers while the Lions took out the Giants on Monday night. This could be a potential playoff preview game, so fans should pay attention to how this game plays out. Here’s how the Falcons offense matches up with the Lions defense.
Note: All assessments influenced by PFF Edge scores.
In the trenches
After an inconsistent week 1 against Chicago, the Falcons offensive line looked better against the Packers in week 2. However, the loss of starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder is a concern, with recent signee Ty Sambrailo taking over. Right guard Wes Schweitzer did a better job in his second start, while Alex Mack, Andy Levitre and Jake Matthews were good, as usual. Injuries have added questions to this line, with a young player (Schweitzer) playing next to a new player (Sambrailo). If the Falcons are going to put up points, they need the guys on the right side to play better than they did against Green Bay.
The Lions front seven is a bit of a mixed bag. Haloti Ngata is a very good run stuffer and Edge defender Ezekiel Ansah is a very good pass rusher who could cause havoc in this game. Second year defensive end Anthony Zettel is off to a very good start as well. The only real weak link on this line is A’shawn Robinson. At linebacker, Tahir Whitehead is off to a good start, but hasn’t historically been a world-beater. Paul Worrilow is their two-down linebacker who should really be a backup (as Atlanta fans know). Jarrad Davis, their rookie linebacker, has shown flashes of brilliance so far.
The Lions don’t have a dominating pass rush, but they have the ability to stifle the run. With Schraeder out, this could be a difficult match-up for the Falcons, but they’ve faced harder. With the injuries on the OL, this one is too close to call.
The skill positions
Falcons QB Matt Ryan is off to a decent start, playing much better in week 2 than he did in week 1, though there is definitely some room for improvement. Devonta Freeman has been showing why he’s worth the big contract he got, while Tevin Coleman has not quite lit it up like he did last year. Austin Hooper was very good in week one and largely quite in week two. However, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu have both been very good in 2017, with the latter being particularly effective against the packers. Don’t forget about Taylor Gabriel, who can take the top off of any defense.
Corner Darius Slay is a quality player who will probably be matched against Julio. On the opposite side, Nevin Lawson shouldn’t inspire a ton of confidence in Lions fans, as he’s been sub-par thus far. Glover Quin is a very good free safety in the middle while Tavon Wilson has been good in the past, but has struggled this year. In nickel sets, Quandre Diggs has played well this year, but has been inconsistent in the past.
There are few defensive secondaries that can match-up well against the Falcons offense. The Lions have enough question marks to give the Falcons the nod here.
Playing on turf will help this Falcons offense feel comfortable. The Lions have definitely improved on defense, but there are enough gaps there for the Falcons to exploit. Unless guys like Nevin Lawson play the game of their lives, this should be a match-up the Falcons should win. The only cause for concern is the right side of the line, which could be a problem to be exploited by the Lions.