Lions vs. Falcons Odds, Predictions, Picks: How Tim Boyle Starting For Jared Goff Impacts Our Spread Bet
Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: Lions QBs Tim Boyle (left) and Jared Goff (right)
- Jared Goff won't clear COVID protocols in time to start, so where's the betting value on this Week 16 matchup?
- While NFL odds for Lions vs. Falcons have moved since our expert wrote the following preview, the spread is within his bet-able range.
- Find out how he's betting it with Goff out this Sunday.
NFL Odds: Lions vs. Falcons
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Lions head coach Dan Campbell has kept his team fighting all season, despite only a 2-11-1 record. They’ve found a way to win two of their past three games and are fresh off a 30-12 destruction of NFC West-leading Cardinals.
Meanwhile, the Falcons are still somehow on the NFC playoff bubble, even at just 6-8. They’ve alternated wins and losses over the past four weeks, and now need to win their last three games to have any chance at securing the final playoff berth in the conference.
Is Detroit a live underdog once again? Or will Atlanta beat an inferior opponent on its way to jumpstarting a late-season playoff push? Let’s dig into why I’m betting on the former.
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Lions vs. Falcons Injury Report
Find the Lions’ complete injury report here.
Lions vs. Falcons Matchup
|Lions Offense||DVOA Rank||Falcons Defense|
|Lions Defense||DVOA Rank||Falcons Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Lions Finally Showing Their Teeth
Editor’s note: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Sunday morning that backup QB Tim Boyle is expected to start for the Lions.
The biggest unknown is the status of quarterback Jared Goff, who has been on the COVID-19 list since Monday. Goff is reportedly “feeling fine” and hopes to clear in time for Sunday’s game (read about the NFL’s updated protocols here), but Campbell said on Friday it was “highly unlikely” that Goff would play.
The Lions had both lead running backs back at practice this week, including D’Andre Swift’s first practices since Thanksgiving, solidifying an already-strong running game. If Swift can play after getting in limited practices, that would give Detroit its most valuable offensive weapon back — though the Lions received a huge boost from 25-year-old Craig Reynolds, who tallied fantasy RB2 performances in each of the past two weeks with Swift sidelined.
Detroit’s passing game has also seen a boost, with superb performances from Josh Reynolds and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown. The two combined for 17 targets, 14 receptions, 158 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Arizona — and the Cardinals’ defense provided a much tougher challenge than they will face against the Falcons this Sunday.
The Lions defense has also been able to find turnover success last week, sacking Kyler Murray twice and forcing an interception. In their prior win in Week 14, they sacked Vikings QB Kirk Cousins twice and forced a fumble. The defense has started to play better, supporting a quarterback who isn’t turning the ball over — Goff has thrown nine touchdown passes with just two interceptions over the past four weeks.
The Lions have also been strong in special teams all season, ranking 11th in special teams DVOA, which will be a critical advantage against a Falcons team that ranks 28th-best in the same category.
Falcons Not As Good As Record
Atlanta has a very similar profile to Cincinnati: Two teams that have a huge disconnect between their win/loss record and their metrics.
Despite still being in the playoff race, the Falcons rank the absolute worst in overall team DVOA. Their estimated win total is just 2.9, meaning that if their schedule was changed to just a league-average level of difficulty, their overall lack of efficiency in critical situations would project for far fewer wins.
The regression monster is coming.
The 36-year-old Matt Ryan appears to be approaching the end of his career as he’s failed to break 190 passing yards in four of their past six games. His numbers have dropped precipitously without leading wide receiver Calvin Ridley — and the tandem of Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus simply isn’t good enough.
Dynamic rookie tight end Kyle Pitts ranks fourth at the position in receiving yards (847), but has just one touchdown on the season.
And finally, the Falcons’ pass rush is anemic, totaling just one sack over the past three games. At home this season, they’re averaging just one sack per game.
NFL Pick: Lions vs. Falcons
If Goff is somehow cleared to play Sunday, I expect this line to swing toward Detroit. And even if he isn’t — which is looking more likely — I like the Lions with a few extra points of value with Tim Boyle or even David Blough at QB, so I’ll take the points with them down to +4.5 if Goff plays or to +6.5 if he doesn’t (check real-time NFL odds here).
The Lions have shown a ton of fight, which is more than the Falcons have displayed on either side of the ball. And Atlanta’s defense generates no pressure while Detroit could actually have more offensive playmakers if Swift returns.
I’m grabbing the points with a Detroit team that just crushed Arizona at home.
Pick if Goff doesn’t start: Lions to +6.5
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