Three teams in the NFC South at 2-0 to begin the season? (Yeah, I'm sure nobody bet on that...).
Atlanta is coming off a massive win over the Green Bay Packers last week, in which they came back from a 12-point deficit to improve their record to 2-0. Continuing their battle with the NFC North, Atlanta will pack their bags for the first road game of the season as they get set to take on the Detroit Lions (1-1). Detroit defeated Kanas City in the first game of the NFL season with a score of 21-20 and lost to Seattle last week in overtime 37-31. The Lions currently rank third best in offensive yards and fourth in passing yards. Detroit is a mean team up front between their offensive and defensive lines; Atlanta will have to be physically tough if they want to improve their record to 3-0.
The big storyline going into the game is the battle between rookie runningbacks Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs. Robinson is so far winning the battle as he is second in the NFL in rushing yards, but Gibbs may have an opportunity to bring a little more attention to him, as David Montgomery is listed as "Doubtful" for Sunday's matchup. Last week, Gibbs led the Lions in receptions and targets in last week's game, but he has yet to get anything going on the ground, as he's rushed 14 times for only 59 yards. Again, Gibbs should be able to elevate those numbers if Montgomery isn't ready for Sunday, making the rookie running back battle a little more interesting.
Date: Sunday, September 24, 2023
Start Time: 1pmET/10amPT
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Stadium: Ford Field
TV Info: FOX
Key Players- Offense
Mack Hollins- Falcons WR
Yes, Bijan Robinson had a great game last week, and Atlanta is the third-best rushing team in terms of yards, but I believe we'll see Arthur Smith call more passes to become as balanced as possible. I decided to go with the Falcons WR2, Mack Hollins. I have nothing against Drake London (who had a very nice game last week), but Hollins seems to be used more in the deeper part of the passing game, and with C.J Garnder-Johnson hitting the IR for the Lions, we could see some of those deep passes from the Falcons. A week ago, Hollins recorded 60 yards on three catches, including a 45-yard bomb to assist Atlanta with their comeback. Hollins also caught a touchdown, but it was later ruled an incompletion due to Hollins not having both feet down. However, every replay and still shots I've seen seems to show otherwise (but hey, I'm not the one who gets to make the calls).
Jahmyr Gibbs- Lions RB
Not going to spend too much time breaking down Gibbs, as most of what you need to know is stated above. Gibbs will likely see most of the touches Sunday with Montgomery's injury, but it is worth noting that Gibbs is tied for third on the team in targets. It'll be interesting to see how Gibbs is used on Sunday; Craig Reynolds is the only other RB that Detriot has used this year, but only has three carries.
Key Players- Defense
A.J. Terrell- Falcons CB
With Detroit having the fourth-best passing attack in the league and Jared Goff throwing 35 attempts in both games, there should be plenty of opportunities for A.J. Terrel and the Falcons secondary. Terrell has been the definition of "lockdown" this year; he has only allowed five catches on 15 targets this season and has been dominant in single coverage. Atlanta ranks second on defending the pass, and Terrel, along with Jessie Bates lll have been contributors.
Alex Anzalone- Lions LB
The Lions defense hasn't been the brightest spot so far this year. They currently rank 22nd overall, 9th in the rushing against, and 26th in passing against. Anzalone is the choice this week due to him spending the first part of his career with the New Orleans Saints. Anzalone is also tied for first in tackles on the team.
Points Spread: ATL +3 (-102) | DET-3 (-120)
Moneyline: ATL (+138) | DET (-154)
Over/Under: O 46.5 (-105) | U 46.5 (-115)
Lines via FanDuel as of Saturday, September 23
This game has been somewhat of a bother to me all week. I would like to say, "Atlanta should easily be the favorite after last week's win and starting the season 2-0," but Detroit isn't a joke. They beat the Chiefs on the road and lost a very close game against a good Seahawks team. Dan Campbell has brought a new sense of aggression to the team and has caught the NFL by storm. Jared Goff threw his first interception last week, his first in 383 passing attempts, and the running game has been above average. Aidan Hutchson is also a name to mention; he has yet to record a sack this year but did record 9.5 sacks as a rookie. Atlanta's rushing attack will be tested this week as, again, they rank 9th in rushing defense and have allowed an average of 86 yards/per game. However, Atlanta is coming from two games where they have dominated the ground game. Tyler Allgeier was the feature back in Week 1, and Robinson was the feature since last week (Heck, if Cordarrelle Patterson finds his way back this week, maybe he could go off and be the feature back this time around). Atlanta has rushed for an average of 170 yards/per game; the question will be, can Detroit shut down the Falcon's running backs? It's also worth noting that Detroit has only recorded one sack on the year, and I believe we could see an excellent game from Desmond Ridder if he's given time to throw.
There's no question that this will be an upfront battle, and whoever is more physical up front, I believe, will have the upper hand. This could be another close game for Atlanta, and I don't see the Falcons going into Detroit and knocking the Lions around. However, I don't see Atlanta getting knocked around, either. After watching last week's game, this team has a ton of fight and won't go down till the final whistle blows. I have to stay with Atlanta winning (no bias...); however, there will be no "too much to handle" situation for either team. This will be a battle between the trenches for all you old-school football fans!
Prediction: ATL- 24, DET: 21
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)