2021 season preview: Lions at Falcons

Opponent: Atlanta Falcons

Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Week/Date: Week 16, Sunday Dec. 26 at 1:00 p.m.

TV/radio: FOX/97.1 FM

Previous matchup: Oct. 25, 2020: The Lions beat the Falcons 23-22 on a buzzer-beating touchdown catch by T.J. Hockenson.

Why this game matters: The penultimate road game of the season is a winnable one for Detroit as they head down to Atlanta to face a Falcons team that won just four games last season. Detroit won last year's meeting between these clubs in the final minute on a Hockenson touchdown catch.

This is a late-season matchup pitting first-year head coaches against one another who will be trying to finish the regular season out strong. – Tim Twentyman

Crucial matchup: In a 2020 season that was mostly bad, the Falcons' defense against the run was one area that was pretty good.

Improving the running game was a goal set by Lions head coach Dan Campbell and his offensive staff. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and assistant head coach Duce Staley stressed in the offseason their plan to have a strong running game.

Based on their performance in 2020, the Falcons will provide a good test of where the Lions stand in that effort. The Falcons ranked sixth in the league with an average of 104.8 yards rushing allowed per game, and they were in the middle of the pack with 4.4 yards allowed per carry.

The Lions made two key additions in the offseason that should help the run game. Penei Sewell was drafted seventh overall to play right tackle, and former Packers running back Jamaal Williams was signed as a free agent to complement D’Andre Swift, who had a promising rookie season.

The plan looks good on paper. Winning matchups on the field are the real test. – Mike O'Hara

Rookie watch: Atlanta was able to snag arguably the most talented player in the draft, Florida pass catcher Kyle Pitts, with the No. 4 overall pick this offseason. Is Pitts a tight end? Is he a receiver? He's probably both for Atlanta, and at this point in the season he's probably pretty comfortable in the offense.

Pitts is the kind of player who can be a real matchup headache. We'll see how Glenn and the Lions' defense try to attack this talented rookie pass catcher. – Tim Twentyman

WEEK 16 · Sun 12/26 · 1:00 PM EST



Atlanta Falcons

Mercedes-Benz Stadium