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What to watch for in Lions-Falcons London game

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Wake up to Wembley this weekend!

The Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons will do battle at London's Wembley Stadium in the NFL's earliest ever Sunday morning game. Here's what we're watching for at 9:30 a.m. ET to kick off the longest football marathon in history:

1. Attrition has hit the Lions' offense. The team's brass won't decide until Sunday morning if Calvin Johnson's ankle is healthy enough to play. Tight ends Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria have been ruled out, while Brandon Pettigrew and Reggie Bush are doubtful. Deserving of your Pro Bowl vote, Golden Tate will have to continue to do the heavy lifting for this unit.

UPDATE: Johnson is inactive and will miss his third consecutive game.

2. The Lions have the NFL's stingiest defense and perhaps the league's strongest front seven, with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and DeAndre Levy showing Pro Bowl form and Ziggy Ansah making the leap. It could get ugly for a Falcons offensive line down to undrafted rookie James Stone at center. First-round left tackle Jake Matthews has struggled mightily since injuring his ankle in mid-September. It has been impossible to judge Matt Ryan's performance because he has no pass protection.

3. When Ryan does get time to throw, his best matchup will be Julio Jones working against veteran Rashean Mathis. Breakout cornerback Darius Slay is expected to stay on the left side, covering Roddy White. A soft spot in the past, the Lions' secondary has been bolstered by the strong safety play of Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo.

4. Lacking a true pass rusher, the Falcons rank 30th in sacks. Matthew Stafford should have plenty of time to throw against a defensive line that was without Jonathan Babineaux (foot) in Friday's practice.

5. The Falcons holster the NFL's most under-utilized big-play threat in running back Antone Smith. Banished to special teams for five years, Smith has averaged 14 yards per touch on offense throughout his career. He has scored on scampers of 74, 54, 48, 41 and 38 yards this season. Play-caller Dirk Koetter needs to get the ball in his hands eight to 10 times against a shutdown defense.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews every Week 8 game, and breaks down the Broncos' win over the Chargers. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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