The 2-0 Atlanta Falcons take on the 2-0 Detroit Lions in perhaps the most underrated game of Week 3 on Sunday. Both of these teams feature high-powered offenses with excellent QB play, and both also have improving, young defenses. This will be a great measuring stick for both teams to see where they stand in the NFC.
It’s always fun to track statistics early in the season because they’re so volatile. Expect some big changes from last week’s numbers because there are only two data points. When you have so little data to compare, any outlier (like a shutdown performance against the Giants) can have a big effect on your stats.
Let’s take a look at how the Falcons and Lions match-up statistically going in Week 3.
Points/game: Falcons 28.5 (8th), Lions 29.5 (6th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 368.0 (9th), Lions 312.0 (17th)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 265.5 (8th), Lions 202.0 (19th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 2 (T-15th), Lions 6 (T-1st)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 102.5 (17th), Lions 110.0 (T-14th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 3 (T-5th), Lions 0 (T-23rd)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 46% (11th), Lions 48% (6th)
Turnover Margin: Falcons +2 (T-4th), Lions +3 (T-2nd)
The Falcons remain a top-10 offense in most respects after their defeat of the Green Bay Packers. They’re 8th in points and 9th in total yardage, and Atlanta has had more success passing the ball (8th) than rushing (17th). The Falcons are currently among the league’s best in rushing TDs (3, T-5th) and in turnover margin (+2, T-4th). They’re also pretty good on third downs, converting 46% of their opportunities (11th). After two games, the offense isn’t quite what it was in 2016, but it’s getting closer.
Detroit has some very interesting offensive statistics through two weeks. If you looked only at points scored, they’d clearly be a top-10 offense (29.5, good for 6th), but their yardage totals have been average at best through two games (17th in total, 19th in passing, and T-14th in rushing). The Lions have excelled in a few spots, particularly in passing TDs (6, T-1st), third down efficiency (48%, 6th), and in turnover margin (+3, T-2nd).
Points/game: Falcons 20 (13th), Lions 16.5 (T-7th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 334.0 (20th), Lions 289.0 (7th)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 242.0 (23rd), Lions 235.5 (21st)
Passing TDs: Falcons 3 (T-18th), Lions 2 (T-11th)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 92.0 (16th), Lions 53.5 (4th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 2 (T-20th), Lions 1 (T-7th)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 40% (18th), Lions 37% (14th)
Sacks: Falcons 7 (T-7th), Lions 6 (T-10th)
The Falcons defense dropped out of the top-10 after the Packers came to town—which isn’t particularly surprising. Still, they’re above average in total points per game (20, 13th), which is the most important stat. Atlanta is about average in rushing yards (16th), passing TDs (T-18th), and third down efficiency (18th). They’re below average in total yards (20th), passing yards (23rd), and rushing TDs (T-20th). The Falcons have been among the best in the league, however, at generating sacks—they have 7 after two games, good for T-7th.
The Lions’ defense has played remarkably well through two games. They’re currently T-7th in the NFL in points per game, allowing only 16.5. Detroit is also top-10 in total yards (7th), rushing yards (4th), and rushing TDs (T-7th). They’re above average in passing TDs (T-11th), sacks (T-10th), and third down efficiency (14th). The Lions biggest weakness thus far has been their pass defense (21st). They’ve clearly taken a step forward from 2016, but how big a step is still being determined.
This game is very interesting, and profiles as one of the best games of Week 3. On the one hand, the Lions seem to have the statistical advantage on both offense and defense. They’re also at home, which is usually a boost to a team’s chances of winning. On the other hand, the Lions have amassed these stats against a 1-1 Cardinals team that barely scraped by the winless Colts, and a Giants team that could have the worst offense in the NFL.
I think Detroit is deserving of their 2-0 record, but I’m not sure exactly how good they are. Are they a wild-card caliber team, or a legitimate NFC contender? Is their defense actually good? Can they move the ball consistently, and not depend upon turnovers and fourth-quarter comebacks? All of these are important questions that I think we’ll have some answers to after Sunday’s game.
Meanwhile, this will be a stiff road test for the Falcons. Quinn’s team has had no problem winning on the road (11-6 record), but Atlanta has tended to perform better on offense when at home. However, unlike in Week 1, the Lions play on turf—which has been very beneficial for the Falcons skill players. Atlanta’s defense will also get another tough challenge against a dangerous passing attack.
When it’s all said and done, injuries could be the great equalizer here. The Lions will potentially be down rookie LB Jarrad Davis, who has been a huge upgrade at MLB, and C Travis Swanson. If Swanson misses the game, Detroit could be forced to shuffle several players on their interior OL. That could be very problematic against a Falcons’ interior defensive line that features Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe.
Statistically, the Lions have the advantage. I still think the Falcons pull off the narrow win.
Overall Advantage: Lions
What are your thoughts on the game? Do you think the Falcons will make it to 3-0? Any particular players or match-ups you’ll be watching on Sunday?