The Falcons are coming off a humongous high after smashing the Packers in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game. Not to mention it was the first ever regular season game in the immaculate, $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was a night to remember as Atlanta jumped out to a 31-7 lead early in the third quarter, squashing all the offseason talk about a Super Bowl hangover.
Atlanta and Detroit are two out of just three NFC teams to start the season 2-0 and are arguably the two best teams in the NFC at this point. Green Bay may find there way back to the top of the NFC North by seasons’s end, but with injuries to both of their starting offensive tackles and star receiver Jordy Nelson, the Lions have the opportunity to jump out ahead in the division. Detroit knows what type of team they will be playing this week, a true measuring stick to see where you stand in the NFC. The Falcons better come ready because they will literally be walking into a Lion’s den come noon on Sunday.
Led by the newly highest paid player in the NFL, Mathew Stafford, the Lions come in with double-digit wins over both the Cardinals and Giants. Neither of those teams have looked impressive through two weeks of the season, garnering the Lions little respect outside of Detroit despite their 2-0 start. They will be looking to prove something come Sunday, and they might just have the recipe to give Atlanta some trouble at home.
Not everyone can live up to ridiculously large contracts, but that has not been a problem for Stafford so far this season, throwing six touchdowns to just one interception. Not too many people can lose one of the greatest receivers of all-time and put up career numbers either. Stafford has continuously raised his level of play as a quarterback, and his development under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has many thinking it is just a matter of time he breaks through and starts winning playoff games in Detroit. Something that has been unheard of for quite some time.
The one thing Jim Bob Cooter’s offense has lacked since taking over in 2015 is a running game. Not having a true workhorse on the roster also has something to do with that, but that is an area that Detroit is desperately trying to improve on this year. It has worked so far, as the Lions are averaging 110 rushing yards per game this season. Atlanta did show a tendency last season and in week one of this season to allow rushing yards. Detroit will have to take advantage of this in order to keep Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense off the field. If the Lions cannot get things going on the ground, it will be a long day for the home squad.
Another sign for things to come in Detroit is their evolving defense. It has not been something Detroit has had in the past, but slowly and surely this defense seems to be coming around. They turned Carson Palmer and the Cardinals over four times in week one and followed that up with a five sack performance against Eli Manning in week two.
The main reason for they early success has been the pass rush. They can come at you up the middle with two beasts in Haloti Ngata and A’Shawn Robinson or on the outside with guys like Ziggy Ansah. Chicago had a ton of success creating pressure, especially up the middle against first year starter Wes Schweitzer. Schweitzer had a nice bounce back performance against Green Bay in week two, but he is going to be dealing with a step up in class come Sunday. If he is not up to the challenge, and Detroit can generate the same kind of pressure on Ryan as they did against Palmer and Manning, then the Lions will have a great chance of winning this ball game. There are not a lot of ways to stop this Falcons attack, but pressure is one of them.
The problem for the Detroit defense this week is they will also be dealing with an astronomical step-up in competition. While the Cardinals and Giants offense cannot get out of their own way, the Atlanta offense has picked up where it left off, ranking as the second most efficient offense according to ESPN’s FPI, and that probably does not even do them justice. The defensive line of Detroit has dominated weak offensive lines but has yet to face one as complete as Atlanta’s, and the Falcons have enough weapons to spin this Detroit secondary in circles. The Lions have the makeup and talent to give Atlanta problems in the Motor City, but if the same Falcons team shows up in week three that showed up in week two they will have no problem improving to 3-0.