SharpClarke's Best Week 3 NFL Bet: ATL @ DET

Sep 23, 2023
SharpClarke's Best Week 3 NFL Bet: ATL @ DET

In this week's Matchup Spotlight, let's break down the Sunday afternoon matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. Both these teams came into the season with high hopes for a strong season and face off in an early key matchup for the NFC playoff picture. The Lions have home field, which they were unable to protect last week against the Seahawks. But the Falcons are undefeated after a come-from-behind win against the Packers. This should be a fun one. Let's dive in.

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Matchup Breakdown

DET offense v. ATL defense

The Lions' offense was not the problem last week against Seattle, as they racked up 6.5 yards per play (including 8.5 yards per pass) and converted both red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Jared Goff has thrived at home in his Detroit tenure, so this was no surprise. But things might get a little more difficult this week as he is set to face the Falcons' defense without Taylor Decker and Hal Vaitai on the offensive line, David Montgomery in the backfield, and potentially without (or with a limited) Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds out wide. The offensive line injuries present particular cause for concern because Goff has traditionally struggled with interior pressure, and the Falcons' duo of Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata has looked very good to start the year. Ben Johnson will need to dial up some creative plays to keep the heat off Goff and establish the ground game with rookie Jahmyr Gibbs.

I expect some success here, but it won't come easy. Goff's consistency or inconsistency on third downs will be crucial. I don't love how frequently the Lions have turned to the run in third-and-long situations, signaling a lack of trust in Goff to convert the big play. They seem to be figuring things out still as the season progresses, and perhaps they put it together here. But even Dan Campbell's aggressiveness on fourth down —which can be a good thing— presents the risk that the Lions will leave points on the board and/or give the ball back to Atlanta in good position. I think the Lions can score points here, but the drives might be long and time-consuming, dampening some enthusiasm for an over play. These long drives with lots of plays increase the chances for an offensive mistake, such as a drop, fumbled snap, or, like last week, an untimely interception. That makes a Lions' blowout less likely.

ATL offense v. DET defense

If the Lions do make a couple of mistakes, this Falcons' offense is certainly good enough to capitalize. Bijan Robinson has looked electric every time he touches the ball, and Tyler Allegier is no slouch. Both teams will want to run the ball a lot, but without Montgomery in the lineup, the Falcons have the edge both at starter and at secondary running back. On top of that, the Falcons' dominant offensive line is healthy, and Desmond Ridder will get to look at all three of his massive targets downfield in Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Mack Hollins. Ridder has received a lot of valid criticism for some bad throws that should have been intercepted, but those negative highlights are drowning out the fact that he was actually very good down the stretch last week, leading a 12-point comeback against the Packers. Ridder has picked up where he left off last year, looking shaky early in games but consistently delivering with the game on the line. The coaches trust him on fourth down, and he is getting more comfortable making plays on the run. If he can avoid those really bad throws in this game, the Falcons should have success as well.

The Lions' defense has its own injury issues. They will play this game without C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who had been the heart of a surprisingly tough Lions' defense to start the year. But they will also miss Emmanuel Moseley and Kerby Joseph in the secondary, creating scary mismatches for the Falcons' pass-catchers. James Houston is also on the IR, so Aidan Hutchinson will need to ratchet up the pressure on Ridder to force mistakes. If the Falcons have success in the trenches here, I expect the Falcons to lean on the run game and create easy passes for Ridder. But even if they get behind early, Ridder can get back in the game with all these injuries to the secondary. With both offenses capable of churning out first downs, I expect a lot of success by both offenses, but not necessarily a ton of points due to a reduced number of drives.

Market Evaluation

This game opened with the Lions favored by 4.5 or 5 points. As bettors realized just how bad the Lions' injury report was coming out of their game against Seattle, and processed how well the Falcons played down the stretch against Green Bay, money came in on Atlanta. Now the spread is +3 at most books, although the juice is typically heavy if you want to lay -3 with Detroit. The initial money on Atlanta was almost certainly correct, but the question is whether there is still value on Atlanta or if the love has gone too far.

Best Bet

I think the market has not moved far enough. These teams are virtually mirror images of each other, with mediocre quarterbacks being lifted up by talent and play-calling. But the Lions are simply too banged up to be laying a full field goal against a good team. Ridder has mobility and creativity, and Robinson is a potential game-breaker at running back. The Falcons have taken care of business against two pretty decent defenses, yet bettors are still hesitant to give them full credit. Maybe they will this week, as I anticipate they emerge with a win here. But even if they have to play from behind, I think they can sneak within the 3-point spread and hopefully get a push at worst.

ATL +3 (+100) at FanDuel

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