KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX (Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Nischelle Turner)
SERIES: 33rd meeting. Lions lead series, 23-9. The teams have met four times since 2002, and they split. The Lions won the last meeting in 2006, 30-14.
PREDICTION: Lions 24-10
KEYS TO THE GAME: New Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto has vowed to run the ball, although the ground game was hit and miss during the preseason. Newly-signed RB Rudi Johnson won't see more than a few carries, but the team likes the cut-back style of rookie Kevin Smith in its zone blocking scheme. The Falcons didn't upgrade their front seven much, and if Detroit can run the ball at all, WRs Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson could have huge days. ... With QB Matt Ryan making his first career start, and his blind side protected by fellow rookie LT Sam Baker, the focus will be on the running game led by new featured back RB Michael Turner. However, the Lions' revamped secondary needs to be tested, and expect the Falcons to look for a few safe early passes to get Ryan in the flow and build his confidence.
NEED TO KNOW: Seven of the Lions' eight draft picks made the final roster, including starters Smith and FB Jerome Felton. ... The Falcons are 2-0 in their only two season openers at the Georgia Dome over the past eight seasons.
INSIDE LOOK AT ATLANTA:
The Falcons didn't announce that they were going to start Matt Ryan until they were certain that they could protect their $72 million investment.
The offensive line gave up 47 sacks last season, sixth most in the league.
Left tackle Sam Baker was drafted in the first round, second-year man Justin Blalock returns along with center Todd McClure. The right side will be manned by Harvey Dahl, an undrafted rookie free agent who beat out eight-year man Kynan Forney, and either Tyson Clabo or Todd Weiner at right tackle.
Essentially Baker and Dahl are the only new starters, but the Falcons' new offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, a longtime NFL assistant, has worked wonders with the group.
What the unit lacks in pass-blocking talent the Falcons are going to try to make up for with sheer nastiness and guile.
Blalock had a bumpy rookie season and seems to have benefited the most from Boudreau's teachings.
The Falcons will also aid the line by getting the ball off quickly on short-drops and quicker patterns.