Week 16: Atlanta Falcons At Detroit Lions
- QuarterbackThe 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.
- OffenseThe 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.
- DefenseThe 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 TeamsThe 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 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.