Free Press sports writers predict the Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons game in Week 16, Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (1 p.m., Fox).
The Lions are coming off a stunning 30-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last week. A win Sunday would give the franchise its first winning streak since Oct. 18-25, 2020 — when they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and … the Falcons, on a T.J. Hockenson touchdown with no time on the clock after Falcons running back Todd Gurley scored a TD, rather then going down outside the end zone.
The Falcons, meanwhile, are coming off a 31-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last week that like ended their hopes of sneaking into the playoffs in head coach Arthur Smith’s first season in Atlanta.
Atlanta is favored by 5.5 points, according to our betting partner Tipico Sportsbook.
The Falcons are one of the few franchises the Lions have historically dominated; Detroit is 25-13 against Atlanta since the Falcons joined the NFL in 1966.
Will the Lions continue that dominance? Our Freep writers are, well, skeptical, especially with backup quarterback Tim Boyle set to get the start (his second of the season
The Lions and Falcons have had some interesting finishes in recent years. Last year, the Lions won on an extra-long extra point after Todd Gurley mistakenly scored a late touchdown with a chance to run out the clock. In 2017, the Falcons benefitted from a clock runoff when Golden Tate was ruled just short of the goal line. And three years earlier, the Lions won on a field goal as time expired after getting a reprieve on a missed kick thanks to their own malfeasance. If late-game heroics are in store again Sunday, the Falcons could have the edge given their experience at quarterback, but Atlanta is not a very good team overall. The Falcons rank last in Football Outsiders’ Team DVOA rankings and most of their six wins this season have come against bad teams. If Goff was playing, I’d feel better about the Lions chances to win for the third time in four weeks. With Tim Boyle under center, this low-scoring toss-up ends in Atlanta’s favor. The pick: Falcons 21, Lions 17.
It feels wrong to pick against the Lions after their astounding win victory last week. But with so many health and injury questions for a road game, it seems too improbable for the Lions to overcome this kind of adversity and pull off a mild upset. The pick: Falcons 26, Lions 20.
Ring the bell and hold it to your ear. Do you hear it? Do you believe in the Lions? Especially if Jared Goff can’t play because of COVID? Yeah, me neither. High draft pick fans can rejoice. This game is the Polar Express to another loss. The pick: Falcons 23, Lions 17.
It’s tempting, no doubt. You want to take these Lions after watching them handle Arizona Sunday. And here’s betting they will be competitive once more for a while. But without Jared Goff? That’s too much to overcome. The pick: Falcons 26, Lions 13.