The Atlanta Falcons head to Ford Field on Friday night in the preseason opener for both teams.
Atlanta went 7-10 SU last season before undergoing big changes during the offseason, including trading away longtime QB Matt Ryan. With all their roster moves, the Falcons are looking at a rebuild this year.
Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off a 3-13-1 SU season. However, Detroit looked better towards the end of the campaign when they picked up their three wins. With a young lineup that is expected to grow under head coach Dan Campbell, expectations are high in Detroit. However, it remains to be seen if they can deliver.
The Atlanta Falcons will be without QB Matt Ryan for the first time since 2007 as the Falcons dealt the former MVP to the Indianapolis Colts during the offseason. With Ryan gone, Marcus Mariota is favored to be the Falcons’ starter this season. However, with Atlanta drafting Desmond Ridder who led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoffs last year, Mariota will have competition.
Kyle Pitts lived up to expectations with 68 catches for 1,026 yards with one touchdown. Codarrelle Paterson emerged as an all-around weapon as he rushed for 618 yards on 153 carries while catching 52 passes for 548 receiving yards while amassing 11 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, AJ Terrell had a terrific defensive year with 192 tackles, three interceptions, six pass breakups, and a forced fumble.
Atlanta is thin on defense with Eddie Goldman retiring before the start of training camp and Vincent Taylor suffering a ruptured Achilles. Linebacker Deion Jones has a shoulder problem while receiver Bryan Edwards has been limited in practice and is doubtful to play in this game.
The Lions had a terrible three-win season last year but there is plenty of optimism in their second season with Dan Campbell. While Detroit may not have succeeded in picking up wins, it appeared as Campbell succeeded in instilling a winning culture in the team. The Lions looked better during the latter part of the season when they picked up three wins. Fans and bettors hope they pick up where they left off.
Jared Goff is coming off a season where he completed 332 of 494 passes for 3,245 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Tim Boyle and David Blough will be Detroit’s quarterbacks playing behind Goff. The Lions were 0-3 in the preseason last year but two games were decided by six points or fewer. Detroit had a bottom 10 offense last season, averaging 19.1 points per game and 322.6 yards per contest. The defense was equally terrible with 27.5 points per game allowed while allowing 379.8 yards per game.
Amon-Ra St. Brown caught 90 passes for 912 receiving yards during his rookie season. D’Andre Swift rushed for 617 yards on 151 carries. Tracy Walker III led the team with 108 tackles, one interception, and five pass breakups. Receiver Quintez Cephus is questionable with a leg injury while Jerry Jacobs, Romeo Okwara, and Jason Cabinda are all on the PUP list.
The Falcons are 4-2 SU in their last six games played against the Lions. Atlanta is also 5-2 SU in their last seven games played in Detroit.
Atlanta Falcons SU trends:
Detroit Lions SU trends:
With Matt Ryan’s departure, the Falcons’ QB1 job became vacant and right now, it’s still unclear where veteran Marcus Mariota or rookie Desmond Ridder will be their starting QB for the season. While Mariota being the experienced veteran has the edge, the Falcons are high on Ridder and could still steal the starter job from the veteran.
Rookie receiver Drake London has a chance to show out early in his career while Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge, Cameron Batson, and others are fighting for playing time in the slot. Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy are in a battle for starting center. On defense, there the nose tackle job is being contested by Vincent Taylor and Anthony Rush. With such little time before the season begins, the Lions still have plenty of big decisions to make.
Meanwhile, Detroit is in a make-or-break situation with starter Jared Goff and it remains to be seen if Goff will step up to the plate and prove his worth. Detroit’s offensive line has drawn plenty of positive reviews, however, the five projected starters have yet to play a single regular season snap together. Josh Reynolds, Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, and Jameson Williams will all be fighting for playing time at the receiver slot.
Detroit’s linebacker unit will be under pressure to deliver this season with plenty of playing time across the board. Jeff Okudah has looked good in camp but the cornerback’s injury history still puts plenty of question marks about his future. There are high hopes for the Lions for the upcoming season as bettors are betting heavily on them to go over their regular season win total. However, it remains to be seen if their players will respond to the challenge. Dan Campbell is an excellent motivator but his players need to be more consistent this season.
Both teams are on the rebuild and I think both still have a long way to go before they can be contenders. However, against each other, I like what the Falcons have right now. I think Atlanta has a deeper and better-experienced team.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games played against the Lions. Atlanta is 5-1 ATS in their last six road games in Detroit. The road team is also 5-1 ATS in the last six head-to-head meetings between these two teams. The underdog is also 6-2 ATS in their last eight games played.
Atlanta Falcons ATS trends:
Detroit Lions ATS trends:
This preseason game could very well be decided by the quarterback depth. In which case, the Falcons should have the advantage as Mariota and Ridder will be competing for the starting QB spot. I expect the two to figure significantly in this game with one trying to outdo the other.
On the other hand, Detroit’s options outside Goff are Tim Boyle and David Blough, neither of which I find exciting. Between those two and the Falcons’ backups, I think Atlanta’s offense will look much better on Friday night. With both defenses likely equally bad, the Falcons should have the advantage.
Prediction: Falcons -1
The total has gone under in five out of the last six meetings between these two teams. The under is also 5-1 in their last six meetings in Detroit.
Atlanta Falcons over/under trends:
Detroit Lions over/under trends:
Atlanta owned the 7th worst defense last season, allowing opponents to pick up an average of 364.4 yards per game. They also allowed the third most points per game at 27.0 points per game. And allowed opponents 5.6 yards per play. The Falcons didn’t do much to improve that defense during the offseason so there’s not much hope for the unit to be better this season.
Detroit’s offense picked up late in the season as they scored 29 or more points in four out of their last six games played. With some of their starters expected to play early, the Lions can do a good amount of damage in the first quarter of this game and put up points against this thin Atlanta defense. Defensively, the Lions were worse than the Falcons in scoring defense at 27.5 points per game allowed.
These are two teams who didn’t have good defensive units last season. With teams still trying to figure things out here, I don’t expect the defenses to be that cohesive yet. Give me the teams to hit the over.
Prediction: Over 34.5
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