NFL Week 3 Preview: Falcons at Lions
Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Bill O’Brien
Matchup: Atlanta Falcons offense vs. Detroit Lions defense
- WR Taylor Gabriel vs. CB Nevin Lawson – Julio Jones will draw a primetime matchup with cornerback Darius Slay in this Sunday’s matchup between the two teams but outside of the Jones-Slay matchup is the matchup between Gabriel and Lawson which could have a big impact on the outcome of this one. In 2016, Gabriel led the NFL in wide receiver rating with an outstanding rating of 148.1, but has seen that rating drop to 91.4 thus far in 2017. He will have a chance to bounce back against cornerback Nevin Lawson as Lawson will remain on the outside against three-receiver sets. Lawson has struggled through two games and has earned a team low overall grade of 42.6.
- RB Devonta Freeman vs. LB Tahir Whitehead – Running back Devonta Freeman has paced the Falcons rushing attack so far through two games by out-snapping fellow running back Tevin Coleman 75-46. Freeman has played well through two games by earning the fourth highest overall grade among running backs with a grade of 82.3. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead is very capable of being up to the challenge of containing Freeman. Whitehead currently ranks eighth among 4-3 outside linebackers in run-stop percentage at 9.7 percent.
- T Ty Sambrailo vs. EDGE Anthony Zettel – Regular starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder will be out this week after suffering a concussion in Week 2, leaving back up tackle Ty Sambrailo to step in. Sambrailo struggled in pass protection last week in relief of Schraeder by allowing six total pressures on just 29 pass-block snaps, which was good for a pass-blocking efficiency of 82.8. Now in his second season in the NFL, edge defender Anthony Zettel has been a force for the Lions defense. Zettel has not only played the most defensive snaps among defensive linemen for the Lions with 82 snaps, but also is the highest graded defensive lineman with a grade of 85.1.
Coverage by: Brett Whitefield
Matchup: Detroit Lions offense vs. Atlanta Falcons defense
- Slot WR Golden Tate vs. Slot CB Brian Poole – Through two weeks of the regular season both Tate and Poole are grading among the best at their position. Tate ranks 14th among receivers with an overall grade of 79.0 while Poole has been near elite ranking fifth among cornerbacks with an overall grade of 85.4. Tate currently leads all receivers in receptions from the slot with 12, catching 100 percent of his targets. Poole will have to shore up his tackling if he plans to slow down Tate. Poole leads all cornerbacks with four missed tackles while conversely, Tate’s strength is run after the catch. Prior to this season, no receiver has forced more missed tackles than Tate’s 72 since 2014.
- T Greg Robinson vs. EDGE Adrian Clayborn – Robinson has carried his poor play into this season. Currently he ranks 68th out of 72 qualifying tackles with an overall grade of 31.4. Robinson has struggled in pass protection, already surrendering nine pressures on just 70 pass-block snaps and has also added an additional three penalties. Clayborn comes in as Atlanta’s highest graded edge defender thus far with an overall grade of 79.1 and could see an expanded role this game with Vic Beasley missing due to injury. In 49 pass-rush snaps, all from the right side, Clayborn has produced six pressures (1 sack, 2 hits, 3 hurries) for a pass-rush productivity of 9.9 that ranks 21st among 4-3 defensive ends.
- T Rick Wagner vs. EDGE Takk McKinley – So far, Rick Wagner has proven to be worth the money he got this offseason, ranking fourth among offensive tackles with an overall grade of 83.5. While he has been solid in pass protection, his strength has been moving bodies in the run game and his 87.5 run-block grade is a testament to just that. This week Wagner draws a favorable matchup as he will square off against Takk Mckinley. McKinley gets his first start as a pro with the absence of Vic Beasley and brings in a solid overall grade at 77.2. McKinley has been much better as a pass-rusher than in run defense so far. Mckinley will need to be better against the run than his run defense grade of 56.8 through two games if the Falcons want a better shot at keeping Detroit one dimensional.