Riding high after two wins in two weeks, the Detroit Lions face a reality check when they face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in Detroit.
When the Detroit Lions face the visiting Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, it will be their first real test of the season. The Arizona Cardinals are pretty clearly not a great football team, and the New York Giants are a few more losses away from getting a new head coach.
The Falcons are the real deal, however. Atlanta handled the Green Bay Packers in week two, after doing enough to beat an overmatched Chicago Bears team in week one.
This week, I think that the Lions come up short. I’ve been leaning pro-Lions in my first two prediction pieces (and, I’m pretty much clairvoyant in those, you should check them out). Before you go calling me a hater, go back and check the facts. Just like I am about to drop on you about this week’s game.
Jarrad Davis’s Injury is a big problem:
Starting middle linebacker Jarrad Davis underwent the league’s concussion protocol during the Giants game on Monday night. On a short week, after taking a pretty good shot to the gourd, I don’t think Davis sees the field on Sunday. That’s bad, because he is the single biggest upgrade the Lions have over last year’s porous defense.
His speed changes things in the middle of the field. Tahir Whitehead has played admirably, but showed us last year that he lacks the speed to cover backs and tight ends in the middle of the field. Arizona has two great backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. They will prove to be a challenge to a Davis-less defense on Sunday afternoon.
Ameer Abdullah’s fragility seemed to show again:
The Lions’ leading rusher last week, running back Ameer Abdullah left the field after apparently rolling his ankle late in the game. For a guy whose game is based on speed, that’s a bad sign. Ankles are a brutal, slow recovery, and they can rob a guy lateral quickness. That’s Abdullah’s game.
Because of the injury, you expect to see more Theo Riddick. Riddick is arguably a top-five pass catcher out of the backfield, but any honest fan will admit that he’s not a real threat between the tackles. That means the Lions need to lean on Dewayne Washington (if he’s healthy), or going even farther down the depth chart, Zach Zenner, who hasn’t been active yet this year. Advantage Atlanta.
The Falcons will bring speed to Ford Field:
The biggest improvement of the Lion’s defense has clearly been team speed. Players are flying to the ball in both the run and the pass game. That means lanes are clogged, big plays are harder to come by, and running lanes close much faster.
The problem is, as fast as the Lions defense has looked this year, the Falcon’s defense is even faster. That speed helped neutralize Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his group of weapons last week. That same speed will be on display in Ford Field this weekend. As I type, however, the Falcons have announced a couple of big injuries… hmm… maybe this swings things back our way?
The Atlanta Falcons reached the Super Bowl last year, and seem to be the class of the NFC early this season. The Detroit Lions, who made the playoffs last year, seem to be trending up. If there were no injuries on the Falcon’s side, I might predict a big win for Atlanta. Instead, I am going with a hard fought squeaker of a game: Falcons 24, Lions 21.