The Detroit Lions are coming off their first loss of the season, having lost at home last week to the San Francisco 49ers. They have another tough matchup this week when the Atlanta Falcons come calling.
The line opened with the Lions as 4 ½ point favorites but sharps have pulled that back to 3 ½. The public has been playing Detroit all week and is currently playing them at 55% according to one site. With the sharps moving one way and the public moving the other, I like siding with the wiseguys. For a free pick this week, consider joining with the wiseguys and backing Atlanta with a little more than a field goal.
Only one injury should play a factor in this game. Detroit running back Jahvid Best is likely out this week with symptoms relating to a concussion suffered against the Niners. The concussion was Best’s third since his senior season at California and hopefully he won’t be out too long. But with the emphasis the League has placed on concussion awareness, it’s highly unlikely Best will play against Atlanta. In his place, Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams will likely split time in the backfield.
The Falcons running game should be fine with Michael Turner healthy and running well. Last week against Carolina, Turner had two touchdowns with 27 carries and 139 yards. In that game Atlanta rushed the ball 35 times, which means the Falcons are starting to put much more emphasis on the running game. Previously Matt Ryan was being asked to do too much. Ryan is much more effective when he can play off a running game, rather than showcasing the passing game and running off that. Atlanta has some serious weapons on offense. With Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside and the ageless Tony Gonzalez working the middle of the field, look for Ryan to use play action and find lots of space to distribute the ball.
Surprisingly, Detroit has been pretty awful against the run this year. Not that the Lions are traditionally a run stopping defense (or any kind of a stopping defense), but with the much ballyhooed defensive line of Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, it’s strange that Detroit is 26th against the run. They’re allowing an average of 129.5 yards per game and yielded over 200 last week against San Francisco. Frank Gore looked like a Hall of Famer.
While Atlanta’s defense has been strong against the run, their pass defense is reason for concern. In all honesty, that’s the big deficiency on this football team and I found it surprising they went after Julio Jones the way they did in last year’s draft. For the season they’re allowing 283 yards per game through the air. They’ll have their hands full against Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Don’t be surprised to see Atlanta play an unusual amount of nickel and even dime packages with blitzes coming from anywhere. The Niners racked up five big sacks last week and that’s one way to make up for an average secondary – blitz, blitz, blitz.
I can think of three other reasons for liking Atlanta in this game. For one, the Falcons are a dome team so playing in Detroit, on some level, will be comfortable. For two, the Lions have had to deal with the distraction of the Jim Schwartz debacle after last week’s game. Finally, this is the first time all season Detroit is playing off a loss. How will they respond?
Don’t forget, Atlanta was the number one seed in the NFC last season. The wiseguys are certainly liking the Dirty Birds. Consider grabbing the points and playing the road team. Good luck!