We’re a day away from Week 7. The big theme of the week is a simple one, and it’s whether the Falcons can keep up the energy and strong level of play they showed in Week 6, or whether we’re going back to the rudderless misery of the first five weeks. It’s fun not to know, I guess.
Let’s take a closer look at the biggest reason to feel confident about this matchup and the biggest reason to worry. As always, we don’t lack for the latter.
Feel confident about a great day on the ground
The last time the Falcons faced an awful run defense was Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers. That team was only 21st in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed and 29th in terms of rushing touchdowns, but Todd Gurley and Brian Hill nonetheless combined for 160 yards on 21 carries against them, punching in a touchdown. It wasn’t enough to win the Falcons the game, obviously, but that owed more to that rushing attack being accompanied by a putrid passing attack than anything else.
The Lions are a significantly worse run defense than Carolina, full stop. They’re 29th in the NFL in yardage allowed on the ground and 26th in rushing touchdowns allowed, and that’s after they held the Jacksonville Jaguars to a measly 44 yards a week ago. Atlanta’s done well against better groups, and I fully expect a suddenly run-forward Dirk Koetter and company to take advantage of that.
Winning on the ground doesn’t necessarily mean winning the game, but a healthy Falcons passing attack paired with Gurley and Hill doing basically whatever they like gives Atlanta a very good chance of victory.
Worry about Detroit’s receiving options
Detroit is not unique in their ability to attack Atlanta’s biggest weaknesses, but that doesn’t make it any less of a concern.
The Lions can hurt the Falcons in several ways that are very familiar. The first is deep, with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay quite capable of working their way by the team’s young cornerbacks for major gains. The second is via tight end, with the very athletic T.J. Hockenson lurking and potentially wreaking havoc on a defense that has virtually no aptitude for stopping them. And the third is by running back, as De’Andre Swift is proving to be a very reliable pass catching option at the running back position. Quite simply, the Lions can beat the Falcons in all the ways they’ve been beat at varying times this year, and it only takes a great game from one player to put Atlanta in a spot of trouble.
Matthew Stafford is a capable quarterback, so short some pressure from the Falcons or an inexplicable Detroit reliance on smashing backs into the teeth of a fairly stout run defense.