The Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions play their first games of the NFL preseason on Friday night.
The preseason doesn't always make for the most riveting showcases, but with both of these squads rebuilding and spots in the starting lineup at stake, it should be an intriguing matchup.
Falcons fans will get their first chance to see new quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, while the Lions are hoping that No. 2 draft pick Aidan Hutchinson can help turnaround their defense.
Here our best free NFL picks and predictions for Falcons vs. Lions in Week 1 of the preseason.
Falcons vs Lions odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
When this preseason line first hit the board in early July, Detroit was installed as a 3-point home favorite. After reports came out on August 2 that Mariota would play the line jumped the fence to favor the Falcons at -1.5 before moving as high as -2.5.
That number had dropped slightly on Thursday afternoon with the Falcons now 1-point road favorites. The Over/Under opened at 32 and has since moved up to 35 or 35.5 after it came out that Lions starting QB Jared Goff would also be beginning the game under center.
Falcons vs Lions predictions
Predictions made on 8/11/2022 at 4 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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Falcons vs Lions game info
• Location: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
• Date: Friday, August 12, 2022
• Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. ET
• TV: NFL Network
Falcons at Lions betting preview
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Betting trend to know
The Falcons are 1-17 ATS in their last 18 preseason games, including 2-16 SU. Find more NFL betting trends for Falcons vs. Lions.
Falcons vs Lions picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
Neither of these teams picked up a preseason win last year, with Atlanta going 0-2-1 and the Lions finishing 0-3. The Falcons should be better offensively this time around, with former No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota expected to play in the first quarter on Friday with third-round rookie Desmond Ridder behind him.
Last year, established veteran Matt Ryan didn't play in the preseason, and Atlanta opted for a platoon of Feleipe Franks and A. J. McCarron. Franks is now third on the depth chart and could get more snaps at tight end, a position he has been transitioning to, after looking very unimpressive throwing the ball.
Behind him will be David Blough and Tim Boyle, who were also his backups last year. That familiarity with the offense should help them, as will the fact that they've both taken a decent amount of regular season snaps, with Boyle completing 61 of 94 passes for Detroit last year and Blough attempting 174 passes for Detroit in 2019.
On the other side of the ball, the Lions were extremely banged up on defense last year, but those injuries allowed plenty of backups and fringe players to get valuable experience on the field.
Yeah, they still got eviscerated by opposing offenses, but those were first-teamers and they should be much more comfortable on the field against the Falcons' second and third-stringers. That defensive depth should make Detroit's stop unit better than the Falcons, who look weak and thin on the line and in the secondary.
Atlanta's soft defensive front could prove particularly troublesome against a stout Lions offensive line that should be able to protect the passer and create holes in the running game.
With Detroit boasting the better depth and defense, I'll back them against a Falcons side that might be a tad overrated since the Mariota is starting news dropped.
Prediction: Lions +1 (-110 at FanDuel)
When the news broke that both Mariota and Goff would start the game, the total for this contest ticked up to 35, and I'm following the line movement and leaning Over. Preseason games often feature very simple offensive gameplans with quarterbacks lacking talent or experience, but Mariota and Goff should be able to move the ball in the early going.
Straightforward playcalling should also play into both teams' offensive strengths, with both sides boasting depth at running back and both defenses needing to sort out their issues with stopping the run.
I expect Detroit's offensive line to boss around Atlanta's defensive line (especially once Grady Jarrett heads to the bench) but there's also plenty of competition at wide receiver for the Falcons, which could prove problematic for the Lions' secondary.
Expect a couple of touchdowns in the early going with Mariota and Goff on the field, and with a few more scores in the later stages of this contest, we should see this total go Over the number.
Prediction: Over 35 (-110 at bet365)
It's always dicey betting on preseason sides because teams aren't necessarily trying to win. They're trying to build chemistry and figure out roster and starting position spots. That seems even more emphatic when you consider how few preseason games both of these teams have won lately.
With lots of positions and groups still up in the air for both rebuilding squads, this should be a pretty competitive contest, but the Falcons simply aren't up to snuff on defense.
Both of these offenses should be fairly even (especially once the starters hit the bench), but the Lions have more NFL-caliber talent on the other side of the ball. That's enough for me to back them against a Falcons team that will likely be giving plenty of snaps to a third-round rookie QB who played in the AAC last season.
Pick: Lions +1 (-110 at FanDuel)