After taking advantage of a limited Green Bay Packers squad on Sunday Night Football in week two, the Atlanta Falcons are headed to Detroit to take on a Lions team that looks better than some expected. This will be another test for a Falcons defense that played very well against Aaron Rodgers and his offense, but it remains to be seen if the Lions will be full strength or not.
At the time this article was written, Detroit Center Travis Swanson is listed as questionable, so it would seem as though his chances of playing are pretty slim. Either way, the Falcons will have to win the line of scrimmage to stop the Lions offense. Let’s get to the matchups.
In the trenches
As we all know, the Falcons are dealing with some injuries along the line of scrimmage as well, as Vic Beasley and Courtney Upshaw are both out for Sunday’s game. While it does lessen the impact of Swanson’s injury, the amount of the depth Atlanta has along the defensive line will really help them this week.
Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang are the two best linemen the Lions have and really provide stability along the right side of the Lions’ offensive line. However, the potential absence of Swanson, coupled with the questionable play of Greg Robinson and Greg Glasgow, opens the door for Atlanta to pressure from the left side of the line.
If Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett are able to get some penetration in the middle of the line, it should make things easier for Takk McKinley and Adrian Clayborn as the game goes on. I’m really excited to see Takk take on Greg Robinson and I expect him to have some success on Sunday. Matthew Stafford showed some mobility Monday night so it is important to get him on the ground when they have the chance.
Advantage: Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons secondary has played well so far this season, especially when the Falcons rely on the advantages they have in one-on-one matchups in press coverage. This week should be another one of those games where the Falcons play tight coverage and force a Lions receiving group that has yet to really prove itself to create separation for Stafford.
The main threats are names most of us are familiar with: Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Ebron worries me a little bit just because of his skill set as a receiver and the Lions’ tendency to move him all around the field. Tate is talented and is a very shifty wideout, but he shouldn’t be too much for Brian Poole or another Falcons defensive back to handle.
I really think this entire matchup will come down to two things: can the Falcons cover Lions running backs out of the backfield, and can they limit the impact Ebron has on the game? If Atlanta does both of those things, the onus falls on the Lions wide receivers to win their matchups on the outside, and I’ll take my chances with that.
Advantage: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have shown that they have a legitimate pass rush and that they have more speed than any other defense in the league, and, while the pass rush may be hindered by injuries, I think the team speed keeps this Lions offense in check.
Watch out for the running backs out of the backfield, though. Both Riddick and Abdullah are skilled receivers and can make plays after the catch. Deion Jones, Duke Riley, and De’Vondre Campbell can’t miss tackles in open space or else a five-yard pass could turn into a chunk play for 20+ yards.
Atlanta needs to limit big plays, force the Lions receivers to create their own space, and finish tackles in the open field and at (or behind) the line of scrimmage when they get the chance. As long as they do that, they’ll have time to get Stafford on the ground and maybe even force him into a mistake or two. I like Atlanta’s chances of being able to do just that.