After dismantling the New York Giants 24-10 on Monday Night Football, the Detroit Lions are 2-0 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
But are they for real?
Heading into the 2017 regular season, each of the Lions first two opponents (Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants) were thought of as playoff contenders but after two weeks, it seems like that may be a stretch. Because of that, most do not look at them as a true contender in the NFC.
That being said, the Lions have taken care of business so far and now they look to make a huge statement this coming Sunday when they take on the undefeated Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field. As we know, the Falcons had a Championship wrapped up with a bow last season until Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Many believed the Falcons would have a tough time rebounding from that debacle but that has been far from the case as they have started off the season 2-0. For the Lions to defeat the best team in the NFC, they will have to be on top of their game.
Here are three things the Lions must do to win against the Atlanta Falcons.
Pressure Matt Ryan
I can not stress enough how important it will be for the Lions defense to put extreme pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. If Ziggy Ansah and company can consistently get in Ryan’s face like they did against Eli Manning on MNF, the secondary will have a chance to contain Atlanta’s receivers.
If Ryan has all day to throw the ball, he will pick the Lions defense apart just like he has to just about every other team he has faced in the last calendar year.
Win the Turnover Battle
Through two games, the Detroit Lions are second in the NFL with a +3 turnover differential as they have only thrown one interception and have lost only one fumble. After posting a -1 turnover differential in 2016, it looks like the Lions are finally having the ball bounce their way. That being said, the Falcons are just behind the Lions with a +2 differential after finishing the 2016 season at +11.
The Lions absolutely cannot afford to give the Falcons offense extra possessions in this game. If they do, it will be a very long day for the fans in attendance at Ford Field.
Whichever team wins the turnover battle will win this football game.
Establish a Rushing Attack
It is no secret that for years, the Detroit Lions offense has been centered around Matthew Stafford throwing the football. Guess what? That is still the case but in their first two games, the Lions have looked competent at running the football against two solid run defenses. After finishing No. 30 in the NFL in 2016 (81.9 yards per game), the Lions rushing attack is currently ranked No. 14 (111.0 yards per game).
This is a game where the Lions have a golden opportunity to establish the run, early and often against a Falcons defense that is tied for No. 30 in the NFL as they have allowed opponents to 5.4 yards per carry. If the Lions can run the football successfully, it will keep the Falcons defense honest and will open up passing lanes for Matthew Stafford.