| The Detroit News
Lions at Falcons
Kickoff: 1 Sunday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Records: Lions 1-4, Falcons 1-5
Line: Falcons by 1
Rod Beard of The Detroit News breaks down the Lions’ Week 7 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons:
LIONS’ PASSING GAME VS. FALCONS’ SECONDARY
For the second straight game, the Lions get a matchup against a porous defense. They handled their business last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the passing game hasn’t gotten the boost that’s needed to provide some breathing room in the second half.
Matthew Stafford has accounted for 10 passing touchdowns and five interceptions. The offense has made strides with the running game, but there’s room to grow in the air, with receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola and tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James.
The Falcons rank 31st in passing yards allowed (335.3) and passing touchdowns allowed (18). Their run defense makes up the difference, aiding in last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, who were without running back Dalvin Cook. The Falcons forced three turnovers and gave up only 32 yards on the ground in their first game under interim coach Raheem Morris, who had been the defensive coordinator.
Subscribers: Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Falcons
Falcons to watch
►Julio Jones, WR: The seven-time selection to the Pro Bowl has been hampered by a hamstring injury this season, which has caused him to miss two games. Jones had a bounce-back game last week against the Vikings with eight catches (on 10 targets) for 137 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he’s a physical mismatch whenever the ball is thrown his way; he’ll be the focal point for the Lions’ defense.
►Matt Ryan, QB: In his 13th season, Ryan is still playing at a high level. He was the NFC offensive player of the week after the victory over the Vikings, when he went 30-of-40 for 371 yards and four touchdowns. Getting Jones back in the offense helped considerably, but with Calvin Ridley developing into a complementary target and Todd Gurley in the backfield, the Falcons’ offense is improving.
►Grady Jarrett, DT: The Falcons have the league’s fifth-ranked run defense and Jarrett is a huge part of the reason. He was selected to the Pro Bowl last season, with a career-best 69 tackles, including 38 solo. The numbers don’t tell the true story of his effectiveness in the middle of the defensive line. In six games, he has 22 tackles, but he has five tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits.
Facts and figures
►The Lions have one of the best special-teams units in the NFL. That’s not a misprint. Jamal Agnew is the NFL leader, averaging 17.5 yards per punt return. On kickoff returns, the Lions average 27.4 yards, which ranks fourth in the league.
►The Lions are getting the rookies involved in the passing game effectively. Of the 102 completions, 22 (21.6%) have gone to rookies, which ranks seventh in the league. D’Andre Swift has 16 of those catches and Quintez Cephus has the other six.
►Julio Jones has the most 100-yard receiving games (57) among active players. In Week 4, he became the franchise’s all-time leading receiver and set the record for yardage through his first 100 career games, with 9,618.