One more win and the Atlanta Falcons can lock up the NFC No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs as they meet the Detroit Lions Saturday night at Ford Field.
The Falcons are fresh off their most convincing victory and their only shutout of the season. Last week they trounced the New York Giants 34-0, forcing three Giants turnovers and quarterback Matt Ryan throwing for 270 yards and three scores.
The Falcons defense picked off New York quarterback Eli Manning twice, allowed only four third down conversions, and Atlanta had possession for 17 more minutes that the Giants.
Atlanta is now 12-2, and much of their success comes from Ryan’s arm and his talented receiving corps of Roddy White and Julio Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Both Jones and White have eclipsed 1,000 yards this season, and Gonzalez has 880 yards receiving.
The disappointing Lions have the receiver many consider the best in the game in Calvin Johnson, who needs 182 yards in two games to break Jerry Rice’s single-season record of 1,848 receiving yards.
Johnson’s chase hasn’t helped 4-10 Detroit in the win column this season, as the Lions are in the midst of a six game losing streak.
Detroit may have hit rock bottom after falling 38-10 to the lowly Arizona Cardinals in Week 15. Johnson padded his stats with 10 receptions for 121 yards, but quarterback Matthew Stafford tossed three interceptions, and Arizona’s Beanie Wells scored three touchdowns in the rout.
After three consecutive punts, Detroit broke out to an early 7-0 first quarter lead after Stafford led an 11-play 73 yard drive capped by a one-yard rushing score by Mikel LeShoure. But that was the only time the Lions would reach the end zone.
Two of Stafford’s picks came in the second quarter and the Cardinals capitalized and never looked back.
Stafford might have an easier night Saturday with Atlanta safety William Moore listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.
The Falcons may also go without White, who was limited in practice on Friday with a knee injury and is questionable.
Betting Odds: Atlanta is favored by 4.5 points
Over/Under: 51 points
Prediction: This game will come down to the quarterbacks. Stafford will try to avoid his porous performance from last week, and also find Johnson as much as possible for the record. Ryan has tried to prove all season that he is one of the best in the league, and will spread the ball around the field. Atlanta will also look to Michael Turner to chew up the clock should they get an early lead. The Falcons should walk away with a very close win.
Predicted Score: Atlanta 33, Detroit 27