Wednesday, October 19, 2011

JZN NFL Predictions vs. Spread: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions (Week 7, 2011-12)

The Detroit Lions were one of the final two teams to have fallen from the ranks of the unbeaten after losing to the San Francisco 49ers. They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves against the Atlanta Falcons. The problem is that this may be an unfavorable matchup for them.

The early spread on this game is Lions (-3.5). Here are some of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for in pick ’em leagues. All lines from Y! Sports and injury reports from CBS Sports as of October 19, 2011. Always update yourselves with injury lines because they’ll change throughout the week.

Current Personal Picks Record (Straights Only)
Atlanta Falcons 5-1
Detroit Lions 3-3

Key Injuries
RB Jahvid Best, S Erik Coleman (IR), S Vincent Fuller, CB Eric Wright, LB Jason Durant, CB Christopher Owens, WR Julio Jones

Keys to the Game
  • Can the Lions contain Michael Turner?
  • Can the Falcons contain Calvin Johnson? What other spread formation sets?
  • How much would the Lions miss Jahvid Best?
  • How will the Lions respond to their first loss since a nine-game winning streak?
  • How well can the Falcons’ offensive line protect Matt Ryan from a four-man rush?
  • Can the Falcons avoid turnovers from the NFC’s top-ranked team in turnover ratio?
  • Third-down Offenses

Michael Turner should cause a load of problems for the Lions’ defense. The Lions are 26th in rushing defense as they’ve surrendered just fewer than 130 yards per game. They’re also allowing 5.2-yards per attempt. The Chicago Bears are the only team allowing more rushing yards per attempt. 

Another concern with the Lions is their offense. They’re only converting on 30% of their third downs. They’ll be hard-pressed to maintain success if they can’t improve on that stat. They’ll be facing a Falcons team that converts on 47% of their attempts.

Here’s what needs to happen for the Lions to win this game: Matthew Stafford must outplay Matt Ryan. The Lions’ defensive line should be able to pressure Ryan into some bad decisions because the Falcons’ offensive line is suspect. Stafford has had fine protection all season and that shouldn’t change against the Falcons.

I already mentioned the 30% conversion rate. However, I think that’s more meaningful if they’re playing a team that doesn’t allow the big play and forces you to convert third-and-short. The Falcons’ defense will almost certainly give up some big plays to Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew. The Lions should be able to spread the Falcons out. It’s up to Stafford to connect with them.

I can’t see the Lions losing two home games in a row. Of course, how many people saw the Lions losing 23 of their next 24 games after that 6-2 start in 2007-08?

Final Predictions:
Against the Spread: Detroit Lions (-3.5)
Straight: Detroit Lions 24, Atlanta Falcons 17

Stat sources:

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