TALE OF THE TAPE

Week 16: Atlanta Falcons At Detroit Lions

Falcons
Lions
Wild Card Playoffs - Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants
Detroit Lions v Oakland Raiders
Quarterback
Winner The Falcons have to set their minds on the postseason and they can’t do it by letting a late-season game get away. Matt Ryan is about to face the greatest pressure of his career when the Falcons play their first playoff game and he would be best prepared by sharpening his skills as he gets prepared for that game. He must avoid bad mistakes and turnovers.
It has not been a good second half of the season and the Lions could be making changes in their coaching staff at the end of the season. Despite that distraction, quarterback Matthew Stafford has had a big year in terms of yardage. The Lions would like to see him turn big leads and big yardage totals into victories.
Offense
Winner The Falcons have a diverse attack and two of the best receivers in the league in Roddy White and Julio Jones. White has been slowed by a sprained ankle and Jones has had nagging injuries as well. Veteran Tony Gonzalez can easily take advantage of the Lions’ secondary. Michael Turner is a bowling ball of a running back who can punish tacklers but he is not a breakaway threat.
The Lions are one of the great enigmas of the 2012 season. They make explosive plays and they roll up big leads but they just can’t bring home wins on a consistent basis. Calvin Johnson is considered a top-three wide receiver in the league, but it’s got to be frustrating to play for a team that can’t get out of its own way.
Defense
Winner The Falcons are coming off a key game against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, so the defense may not be all that keyed up about playing against an also-ran like the Lions. There’s a good chance that they won’t look at this game seriously. While the Lions struggle, anything but their best effort could result in Detroit putting a big number on the scoreboard.
The Lions have decent rankings against the run and the pass, but they give up key plays at the most critical moments. That’s not likely to change against a high-powered team like the Falcons. Defensive end Cliff Avril has had a solid year as a pass rusher and he can turn the corner with quickness. Nick Fairley is a destructive force on the line.
Special Teams
Winner The Falcons have done a solid job on special teams throughout the season and they have an explosive returner in Jacquizz Rodgers. Placekicker Matt Bryant has been a solid weapon for head coach Mike Smith and he has been at his best on FG attempts of 50 yards or more.
The Lions have struggled with their coverage teams since the start of the season. That’s not a great reflection on the team’s overall discipline or the competitive effort of their special teamers. Jason Hanson is a good short- and medium-range kicker, but he’s not the best kicker on longer attempts.

The Winner Is

Wild Card Playoffs - Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants
Winner Falcons
4 out of 4

The Falcons are a much better team than the Lions and have played with more motivation and discipline in addition to the edge they have in talent. However, if the Falcons are not focused on this game, they could let it slip away despite the physical edges they have in so many areas.

MORE TALES OF THE TAPE

  1. Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers (Photo Credit: Mike McGinnis, Getty Images) Kaleb Tarczewski #35 of the Arizona Wildcats (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Elite Eight Tale: #1 Wisconsin Vs. #2 Arizona

    It is rematch time. Last year, the Wisconsin Badgers and Arizona Wildcats met in the Elite Eight and Wisconsin walked away with a 64-63 overtime win.

  2. Devin Booker #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Zach Auguste #30 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Elite Eight Tale: #1 Kentucky Vs. #3 Notre Dame

    Coming into the Sweet 16, West Virginia showed confidence that they could be the team that finally knocked off the Kentucky Wildcats.

  3. (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson, Getty Images) (Photo Credit: Gene Sweeney Jr., Getty Images)
    Sweet 16: #1 Duke Vs. #5 Utah

    So much for the weak Pac-12 this year: The Utah Utes are one of three teams from the beleaguered conference to make the Sweet 16 this year, and they’ll face the best ACC team left in the tournament: Duke.

See All Tales of the Tape