It’s a brand new week for the Lions and their fans. Time to rid ourselves of a loss and focus on the next opponent in the *covers mouth with beer glass* Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are coming in at 3-3 after beating the Panthers by 14 at home 31 to 17. Michael Turner abused the Panthers D, running for 139 yards on 27 carries with 2 TD’s. The Run is the Lions biggest problem in games this year, as shown by Frank Gore last week, who racked up 141 yards on 15 carries. They’ve consistently been poor against good running teams, and Atlanta’s no different.
To go along with Turner’s good form is Matt Ryan and a deadly receiving corps of Roddy White, Julio Jones & Tony Gonzalez. Jones didn’t play last week, but he didn’t need to with Turner beasting. Jones is still being bothered by his hamstring problem and could be sitting again this week. This would be a massive plus for the Lions as they could try and limit White as much as possible. Even though the Lions don’t play a press coverage often, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Houston or Wright double White with Spievey for a lot of the game.
The big addition for the Lions this week is the return of Justin Durant, who’s missed the past 2 games with concussion problems. Durant will sure up the Run D and is a very good coverage LB, as well.
Speaking of concussions, it looks like Jahvid Best will be out this week with his 4th concussion in 3 years. I’ll be honest, I hated the Best pick, and after the 3rd week last season, I didn’t feel better about, and then it got gradually worse with his double turf-toe injuries hampering him for A LOT of the season. And now this is Best’s 2nd concussion so far this year, the first coming in a pre-season game against the Browns. The big question here, is how long can Best continue playing in the NFL? It’s only his 2nd season, but it’s been proven that the more frequent the concussions, the more they linger, the worse they get and they’re more easy to get. At some point, this has to go from being a Football related issue to a being alive at 60 related issue. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press put it “Every week, the Leshoure injury is making it worse”. The Lions are rather screwed at RB after this season. Especially if Leshoure has major set-backs in his recovery (which is possible for achilles injuries). Best is just too small to survive in this league and at some point, the Lions will have to cut ties. I’d love to eat my words on this issue, but I just don’t think I will. There’s a good chance the Lions will be drafting a RB for the 3rd straight year in the first 2 rounds of the draft.
With the absence of Best, Maurice Morris will be getting the majority of the hand-offs this week. Now, personally, I quite like Morris. He’s a tough gritty back who’ll put in work, even though he only gets about 5 carries a game. He’s also better than Best on the ground, which is a big plus, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him average over 5ypc this Sunday, he can be that good. He might lack in the passing game, though. But if the Lions can form some kind of realistic split between run and pass, it might not matter. Atlanta’s run D has been good, though, so Morris may end up having a tough time on the ground in the end.
Changing topics, Atlanta’s pass defense is a positive for the Lions this week. They’re not playing at the highest level right now and the Lions need a big bounceback after their poor passing performance against the 49ers. Stafford missed on a ridiculous 22 throws, while throwing it, a ridiculous, 50 times. Still doesn’t top Colt McCoy’s 61 attempts(!), but don’t be shocked if he passes it at some point this year, solely based on the complete lack of a run game.
The Lions D-Line were back to their lackluster ways against the 49ers in week 6, registering a measly 2 sacks. But the Falcons O-Line is a bit banged up, so this could be another prime match-up for them. The Falcons might be without their starting LT Sam Baker, if he can’t recover from a back problem in time. Meaning that Will Svitek would get the start. Here’s what Rotoworld.com had to say on the matter:
“Will Svitek would get the start if Baker can’t go. Pass protection has been a major issue in Atlanta through six weeks. Baker’s absence would complicate matters against the Lions’ fierce pass rush.”
The Lions need to start capitalising on poor O-Line opportunities in games. They’ve been under-performing for a lot of this season, with low sack totals and high rushing numbers allowed. The D-Line will be a very integral part to their game this weekend. If they can make the Falcons 1-dimensional, then they should be able to slowly pull away from them.
I believe I’ve covered all the bases fairly well, so I’ll get onto my conclusion. I think this game will be a lot like last weekend’s game. Both teams will exchange leads through most of the game, with the winner scoring in the middle of the 4th quarter. The Falcons were one of my losses when first looking at the schedule, but after the disappointment of last week, and the redemption the Lions will be wanting to get, I think they can pull this one out.
Prediction: Lions 27, Falcons 21