Five days after routing the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants to the tune of 34-0, The Falcons are traveling to the Motor City for a Saturday night edition of Monday Night Football on ESPN to take on the struggling Detroit Lions.
In a game where Matt Ryan broke his own franchise record for passing yards in a season, where the Falcons saw Julio Jones have a home breakout performance going over the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his young career and the defense shut down Eli Manning and the Giants offense, Atlanta could very well be the hottest team in the NFC after hanging the largest loss on a defending Super Bowl Champion in NFL history. With one game away from securing the number one seed in the NFC playoff race, who better for the Falcons to play than Lions of Detroit?
After a time of prolonged mediocrity, the 2011 Detroit Lions had a breakthrough, winning 10 of 16 games and making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. However in 2012, they seemed homesick and set out to return to the pre-2011 form. This season the Lions are riding a six game skid as they sit in the cellar of the NFC North with a 4-10 record on the year. In week 15 the Lions were blown out by the even more pathetic Arizona Cardinals, 38-10, in a game where Mathew Stafford tossed three interceptions having two returned for touchdowns.
However there a few things that the Falcons cannot overlook if they want to leave the Motor City with a win. First, the Lions are the number two team in total offense, number one in passing (302 yards per game) and 23rd in rushing (104.4 yards per game). The second of which is a no-brainer, cover Calvin Johnson. Johnson is leading the receiver position in total yards, yard per game, targets and is one reception behind Chicago's Brandon Marshall for being tied with the lead in receptions.
Also the Falcons should not overlook the Lions proneness to turn the ball over. Detroit has gave the ball away 26 times this season have a -9 differential on the season. The Falcons defense have shown all season a knack for getting the football back for their offense, Atlanta is fifth in taking the ball away with 27 and are coming off a game where they forced three turnovers from the Giants who have a +13 differential. The Falcons have an opportunistic defense, while they may not be as stout as the number one defense, San Francisco; the Falcons have the fourth best scoring defense in the NFL giving up 18.5 points a game, going up against the 14th ranked scoring offense in the Detroit Lions.
Lastly the Falcons must avoid falling into one of those stints where they seem completely confused on offense. It’s been times this season where the Falcons have flat out struggled to move the ball and score. The game against the Giants last week made that problem seem like a distant memory however, if they really want to move past it, Atlanta has to march all over the Lions. Detroit is 12th in yards allowed per game with 337.5 but they are giving up 27 points which ranks 28th. We all know the Falcons can put up points, with the Terrible Trio at receiver they should have no problem getting their average 26 points per game in week 15.
The keys to winning this game are simple, play solid defense, move the ball on offense and do not underestimate the opponent. The Falcons are heading to the playoffs and should use this national stage as a simulation of how they want to perform come January. If the Falcons can string together another performance like they did last week, Atlanta should be in prime position to make a run deep into the postseason.
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