Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions preview: Must-win in London


We are a broken record in this space, but Sunday’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions certainly qualifies as a “must-win” for the “home” team. The Falcons are losing a home game as a result of the NFL’s mandated trio of games in London’s Wembley Stadium, but thanks to the hiccups by both the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, Atlanta is still alive in the NFC South despite a 2-5 record. Let’s take a look at the particulars for Sunday morning’s contest.

Opponent: Detroit Lions

Time/TV: 9:30 am ET (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), FOX

Falcons Offense vs. Lions Defense

Detroit’s defense is outstanding. The Lions currently seventh in the NFL against the pass (216.9 yards per game), second in the NFL against the run (73.4 yards per game), second in the NFL in scoring defense (15.0 points per game) and Detroit leads the NFL in total defense (290.3 yards per game).

Now, do you believe me?

At any rate, the Falcons struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball in the loss to the Ravens, and with that ugly performance, there are real doubts about the overall aptitude of the group. Atlanta’s struggles begin with the offensive line, and this is a very difficult match-up against one of the best fronts in the NFL from the Lions. Matt Ryan and the outside weapons are perfectly capable of scoring points if given the opportunity, but Detroit’s front four is better than Baltimore’s front four, and we see how that turned out last week.

It will be interesting to see if Dirk Koetter and the coaching staff even attempt to run the ball here, as the Falcons are, once again, in the bottom ten among NFL teams in generating yards on the ground. It is “weakness versus strength” in that regard, but at the same time, allowing the Lions to pin their ears back in pass rush would be an ugly idea in and of itself.

In short, this is a tough match-up for the “better” of Atlanta’s units.

Falcons Defense vs. Lions Offense

Hilariously, this might work out better for the Falcons. Yes, the defense is utterly brutal right now, as the group sits 30th in the NFL in both scoring defense (28.4 points allowed per game) and total defense (412.1 yards per game), but the Lions actually haven’t been as prolific offensively as you may expect.

First, Calvin Johnson is highly questionable for this game as a result of an ankle injury, and Matthew Stafford simply isn’t the same player without Johnson in the lineup. Detroit has managed to win each of the past two games without Calvin, but it was the defense that has carried the water, and the Lions are actually worse than the Falcons (gasp!) at running the football.

It would be too strong to say that the defense is something to be “confident” in against Detroit, but on the bright side, I thought the effort was much improved against Baltimore, and some of the team’s scapegoats played much better. It would be beneficial for Atlanta if Johnson is unable to play, but at the same time, he will likely be limited, as Desmond Trufant is fully capable of rising to that challenge should the former Georgia Tech star elect to give it a go on Sunday morning.


The Lions are, unquestionably, the favorite in this game, but in the same breath, it is a winnable spot for Mike Smith’s team. Still, the plug can officially be pulled on the season if the Atlanta Falcons do not emerge victorious here, and with the bye week upcoming, there is a real possibility that the head coach could be on his way out sooner rather than later if things go south.

Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will post on Sunday morning. In addition, be sure to follow ATL All Day for the latest on the Atlanta Falcons.