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Week 7 preview: Falcons vs. Lions

After their first win of the season, the Falcons look to pick up win #2 against another NFC North opponent.

Atlanta Falcons v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Win number one for the Atlanta Falcons was a four quarter victory that saw the team look somewhat different. It seemed a bit ironic that the team played with more fire and attitude in the first game after the firing of former head coach Dan Quinn.

Credit is given to interim head coach Raheem Morris for powering the Falcons to a 40-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings in week six. Now the Falcons return to Atlanta as another NFC North opponent is on their radar. Let’s place the upcoming matchup under the microscope and examine the showdown.

About their opponent

The Falcons were not the only team that saw their head coach sitting tight on a hot seat. Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia is facing some heat from the fan base as well as the front office, and it appears he is coaching for his job also. The Lions are one game out of .500 after picking up a road win against Jacksonville last week. The numbers may not show it, but the Lions possess a passing threat that is capable of picking apart a defense behind the likes of quarterback Matthew Stafford and receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.

Key matchups

Falcons offensive line vs. Lions defensive line - The Falcons were very productive last week against the Vikings after racking up 40 points and 462 total yards of offense. The play from quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones will grab the headlines but the Falcons offensive line play last week was overall solid as well. This week, Detroit brings along a defense that is 29th in rushing defense and 26th in rushing touchdowns. To boot, they’re also 26th in yards per carry allowed.

Keeping Ryan clean is always the #1 item on the agenda, but the Lions present an opportunity to make the run game a significant element. Last week, the Lions only allowed 44 yards on the ground but in two of their three losses, they allowed their opponent to gain 164 and 259 rushing yards. Should be music to the ears of the Falcons offensive line.

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Falcons defensive line vs. Lions offensive line - If you’re asking if I’m implying that the play in the trenches would be the biggest key to the game, then the answer is yes. The Falcons possess the fifth best rushing defense in the NFL, allowing just 97.5 rushing yards a game. The Lions run game has been average for the most part this season although they are coming off a season-high 180 rushing yards against Jacksonville.

Also of note, the Lions have only allowed 12 sacks so far this season, but their sack rate is at 6.7%, which is 20th in the NFL. That particular stat indicates how often a quarterback is sacked based on his amount of drop backs. It appears that the Falcons may be getting edge rusher Takkarist McKinley back for this contest after he has been nursing a groin injury this season. This is a game where the Falcons defensive line play MUST be the benchmark for the defense this week. No if, ands, or buts about it.

Analytical outlook

While we’re on the topic of Stafford, an interesting stat caught my attention involving the former Georgia Bulldog. Currently, Stafford is sixth in the NFL in drawn defensive pass interference calls. On the season, Stafford has drawn six accepted pass interference calls that totaled 118 yards. That is interesting given that the Lions are just 22nd in the NFL in pass attempts per game. Ironically, the Falcons have only committed two defensive pass interference calls and have not committed one since the Dallas debacle in week two.

This may not matter to many, but this is a solid indicator of a quarterback’s awareness at times and how this aspect can be hidden yards when a game is closely contested. Just something to keep a close eye on.

Final thought

The vibes around the Falcons definitely feel different as the team is transitioning from the end of a coaching tenure. Their attitude on the field against the Vikings was interesting and showed a sense of urgency that the team has not shown all year. With the Lions coming to town, this is definitely more of a test than what we saw last week in Minnesota. Stafford is capable of winning a game on his own and the Lions have enough weaponry at the running back spot to truly make this interesting because of their physical tone.

Whatever focus the Falcons had last week against the Vikings will likely have to be cranked a bit against a Lions team that is not far away from the playoff picture.