The Detroit Lions are coming off a terrible loss, in which Matt Stafford threw 3 interceptions and the Lions lost to an Arizona Cardinals team that had not won in 2 months. The Lions 2nd ranked offense in total yards will be motivated to end their losing streak, and hoping Calvin Johnson can claim a piece of history. They face a Falcons team ranked 14th in total defense, that is looking to gain added defensive momentum after shutting out the defending champion New York Giants last week. Atlanta needs one win to go into the playoffs with a first round bye and home field advantage.
Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson vs. Falcons Secondary
Can Calvin Johnson break Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yards record? The more appropriate question may be… Can Calvin Johnson break the record this week? There is a distinct possibility. The Falcons are the 17th ranked passing defense, but have allowed a league low 13 passing touchdowns this season. Sitting only 182 yards off the record, Johnson has a chance to break it this week. Johnson is the focus of the Lions #1 passing offense. Facing superstar Patrick Peterson last week, Johnson saw a combination of coverage, including two-man press coverage similar to punt return coverage. Johnson still recorded 10 catches for his 3rd straight game, and 100 yards for a NFL record tying 7th straight game. Johnson has the chance to break two NFL records in one game if he records his 8th straight 100-yard game, and the single season receiving record with 182 yards. The Falcons secondary is not going to roll over for Johnson, he will be doubled all day, and face a variety of corners. Cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel have been solid defenders this year, and will switch off with Johnson. Safeties Thomas DeCloud and William Moore will be tasked with keeping the double team and preventing Johnson from free releases deep. Detroit has been waiting all year for another receiver to step up, but the Lions next legitimate threats in the passing game are their tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. Unfortunately for the Lions, Pettigrew is doubtful for this game. Stafford will have to use his tight ends to try to relive the double coverage constantly on Johnson.
Offensive vs. Defensive Lines
There is a good match in this game between the grizzled veteran John Abraham, and the tackles of the Lions. Abraham will switch between the left and right sides, and is having great success this year, already having recorded his 7th 10-sack season. Lions left tackle Jeff Backus has played well, and fought off promising rookie Riley Reiff. Backus will be tested against Abraham in a battle of tough veterans. On the other side, Gosder Cherllus has been successful as well, as the Lions are 12th in the league having allowed only 28 sacks. The Falcons like to manufacture pressure around Abraham, as 9 different Falcons have registered sacks, including cornerbacks, safeties, linebackers, as well as the defensive line. Yet, the Falcons are 26th in the league having accrued only 25 sacks. It will be critical for the Falcons to get pressure on the Lions pass happy offense.
Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell vs. Falcons Rush Defense
The Lions like to run to set up the pass, and Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell split the running responsibilities for Detroit. Leshoure gets most of the carries, but the Lions have been working Bell in lately as a change of pace back and pass catcher, much like the Falcons are doing with Jacquizz Rodgers. Bell is 3rd in receptions for the Lions with 41 receptions for 393 yards. Linebackers Steven Nicolas and Sean Witherspoon are versatile backers who are good against the run and pass. Against the Lions, it will be important for Weatherspoon and Nicolas to have good days covering the tight ends, and keeping Bell and Leshoure from establishing the run.961706