Two sub-.500 NFC teams look to build some momentum in Week 7 when the Detroit Lions host the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on Sunday.
Detroit did away with a resolute Jacksonville Jaguars squad last Sunday in a 34-16 win, but are languishing in third place in the NFC North with a record of 2-3. Though they are trailing the Green Bay Packers (4-1) and Chicago Bears (5-1) in the division, don't be fooled by Detroit's record; Quarterback Matthew Stafford and Co. are a threat to be a contender in the conference after a rough beginning to their schedule.
A big win against an underperforming, transitional Falcons team could be the catalyst the Lions need to propel them into a stretch of winnable games against the likes of Carolina and Washington as they bid to make up ground and make a charge at the playoffs.
The Falcons come into Sunday's game having finally secured their first victory of the season against the Minnesota Vikings last week, 40-23.
Atlanta is still rooted to the foot of the NFC South at 1-5 during a turbulent October.
The decision to part ways with head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff appears to have been a wise one, though, as the Falcons and interim coach Raheem Morris seem reinvigorated by the change.
Quarterback Matt Ryan and star receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley can still win games, and the Falcons will be gunning for a big W against the Lions to hit some semblance of form and claw back some ground in their division.
Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons Head-To-Head
The Lions and Falcons have met on 37 previous occasions. The Lions hold the advantage in the series, leading 24-13.
The Falcons did win the most recent encounter, though, a 30-26 decision back in 2017.
Detroit Lions season results: L L W L W
Atlanta Falcons season results: L L L L W
Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons Team News
The Lions have a couple of issues at wide receiver heading into this week's contest. Both Danny Amendola (foot) and Marvin Jones Jr. (knee) are listed as questionable following limited participation in practice on Thursday.
Defensive end, Trey Flowers was limited in practice on Thursday with a wrist issue but is expected to be ready for Sunday.
Doubtful for Lions: Desmond Trufant, Frank Ragnow, Danny Amendola, Marvin Jones Jr.
The Falcons also have issues at wide receiver, with both Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley only limited participants in Thursday's practice. Ridley (elbow) is expected to play but it's bad news for Atlanta fans to hear that Jones is still struggling with that same hamstring injury. Is it not wise to just leave the guy out for a game to let him heal up?
Over on the defense, DE Dante Fowler Jr has an ankle injury and sat out Thursday's practice. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game and would be a big loss for Atlanta.
Doubtful for Falcons: Dante Fowler Jr, Julio Jones, Kendall Sheffield, Jaylin Hawkins
Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons Projected Starters
QB: Matthew Stafford
RB: Adrian Peterson, D'Andre Swift
WR: Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola
TE: TJ Hockenson
QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Todd Gurley II, Brian Hill
WR: Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones (questionable), Russel Gage
TE: Hayden Hurst
Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons Prediction
It's unusual to see a team that's second in the league in passing yards struggle at 1-5, but that's exactly what we have in the Falcons, the NFC South's version of the Dallas Cowboys: fantastic offense; atrocious defense.
The Falcons D has given up an average of 432.5 yards per game, the second-worst record in the league. It's through the air that they struggle most though, and if Lions' QB Matthew Stafford clicks into gear with WR Kenny Golladay on Sunday, Atlanta fans could be in for a long afternoon in front of the TV.
So is there any hope for Atlanta? Absolutely! Poor as they are at stopping the pass, the Falcons' D is actually one of the better units in the NFL at nullifying the run, so it might be a tough day out there for Lions' RB duo D'Andre Swift and the veteran, Adrian Peterson.
Over on the other side of the ball, the Lions' defense has been shoddy when it comes to stopping the run game, and powerful Falcons' RB Todd Gurley II is the kind of player to take advantage of such frailty.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had better hope the injury-prone Gurley stays fit for the whole season, though. There isn't much depth on the chart in his position.
Prediction: It's going to be a very entertaining contest between two teams that are capable of putting up points but struggling to keep opponents from doing the same.
For my money, the Falcons have a tiny bit more on offense with the likes of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley lining up at WR, and I'm just not convinced this Lions' D is going to be able to keep Gurley from racking up yards on the ground.
Falcons win a close one, 37-34