Don’t look now, but the Detroit Lions have a pulse. Flush off a stunning upset over the then NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals in Week 15, the Lions eye up their next prey on the schedule, the Atlanta Falcons. One win isn’t enough to change market perspective as the Lions go into this Week 16 road contest as the clear-cut underdogs on the NFL odds board, but they have to fancy their chances against a beatable Falcons team.
Game: Detroit Lions (2-11) at Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
Location: Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Day/Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
|Detroit Lions||+6 (-110)||+210||42½ (-110)o|
|Atlanta Falcons||– 6 (-110)||-250||42½3 (-110)u|
The Detroit Lions lead the head-to-head over the Atlanta Falcons 25-13-0 lifetime but the Falcons have won three of the last five meetings, with their last victory coming in 2017. The Lions won the last meeting 23-22 at the Mercedes Benz Stadium on Oct. 25, 2020, with veterans Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan going toe-to-toe.
This will be the first time Ryan faces the Lions without Stafford as the offensive pivot. Jared Goff took over as the starting quarterback with the Lions this season, but whether he suits up for this game is questionable as the starting quarterback is the latest player to make his way onto the Covid-19 reserve list this week. During his time with the Rams, Goff bested Ryan and the Falcons in a 37-10 win in 2019.
Next game: at Seattle Seahawks
The Lions turned the markets on their heads with an unexpected 30-12 dissemination of the Arizona Cardinals to come through with the improbable victory as the 13-point closing underdogs for NFL picks against the spread.
It was a statement win for a side that has had more to cry over and very little to cheer about this season. It was also an important notch on Goff’s belt. The Rams cast-off, who has been on the receiving end of a reductive commentary, needed some semblance of self-validation.
Update: Lions coach Dan Campbell is crying & we don’t blame the guy. Tough loss AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/S8Lye1gBEl
— the Sports ON Tap (@thesportsontap) October 10, 2021
There are those that might dismiss the win over Arizona as a fluke given that the Lions went into the game with a 1-11-1 record and took on the mighty 10-3-0 Cardinals, But what if it wasn’t? The Lions have been in most games they’ve played, and they’ve lost a few heartbreakers by three points or less. Maybe Sunday’s win over the Cardinals is who the Lions really are, a team that is better than the sum total of its record.
Tackle Will Holden (undisclosed), linebacker Josh Woods (shoulder), defensive lineman Jonah Jackson (back), defensive end Julian Okwara (ankle), running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jashon Cornell (undisclosed) are questionable; wide receiver Trinity Benson (knee), tackle Matt Nelson (illness) and quarterback Jared Goff (illness) are out indefinitely; wide receiver Quintez Cephus (shoulder) and linebacker Alex Anzalone (shoulder) are on the injured reserve list.
Next game: vs Opponent
The Falcons succumbed to a 31-13 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers on the road. Ryan had a so-so day, going 19 of 32 for 236 yards and a touchdown, but the Niners defense was relentless. He was sacked three times and had a fumble for a loss.
The Falcons are 6-8 and on the fringe of the playoff frame. At this point, they’ve got a hallucinatory shot to make the playoffs as the 11th ranked team in the NFC. Of course, there’s still a sliver of hope if they win out.
It’s interesting to note that the Falcons have a 1-5 record at home. The bulk of their wins have come on the road where they are 5-3 straight up. They’re also 6-8-0 against the spread with a 9.0 losing margin on average and a -5.5 differential versus the spread.
Linebacker Emanuel Ellerbee (knee) is out indefinitely; wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (foot), linebacker Daren Bates (groin) and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (knee) are day-to-day.
Betting on the Game
The betting online markets are cornered with the Atlanta Falcons for obvious reasons. The Lions have placed Goff on the Covid-19 list, putting his status for Sunday’s game in jeopardy. Whether Goff is cleared to play in time for this Week 16 game depends on his vaccination status, which is yet to be revealed.
Lions backup quarterback Tim Boyle started one game for the Lions this season, a 13-10 loss against the Cleveland Browns on No. 21. It’s hard to predict what to expect from Boyle if he gets a second start, but the Lions have proven to be competitive all season long. There’s a reasonable expectation that they’ll be competitive here too. Indeed, if there wasn’t such an expectation, the NFL line for this game at the sportsbook exchange might have been greater.
One reason for the rather understated outlook is the Falcons, who have flattered to deceive all season long. The Falcons are the sort of team that can’t be trusted. They lose games they should win and, sometimes, win games they should lose. This is one such game that they should win but could easily lose.
For all intents and purposes, this game is a right tossup for NFL picks. The best strategy might be to wait and see what happens at the quarterback position before pulling the trigger on moneyline and point-spread picks. The same could be said for the total, although the under may well be the smart bet no matter who starts this game for the Lions.