Just when you thought things couldn't possibly get any worse for the 4-10 Detroit Lions, the mighty Atlanta Falcons fly into town. Riding high at 12-2 and certainly looking like the cream of the NFC's crop, Atlanta will enter Ford Field on the highest of notes after a blowout win against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The Falcons run the ball decently, throw exceptionally well and play some opportunistic defense. This week, the Lions have their hands full and more.
With plenty of all-pro difference makers everywhere, the Falcons will present the most complete challenge the Lions will face all season long on a short week. That's not good news for Lions' fans looking for an early victory Christmas present from Santa Claus.
Falcons' Offensive Difference Maker: Roddy White, WR. If Detroit's patchwork quilt secondary hasn't been able to contend with the likes of anyone semi-pedestrian in recent weeks, good luck against White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and company. The headliner of the group due to his size and skill is White. Chris Houston will have his hands full trying to keep up with a constant down field threat. He's the Falcons leading gainer with 1,156 yards on the year. If you're lulled to sleep by White, Jones can put it in the end zone with his team leading nine touchdown receptions, and so too can ageless Tony Gonzales. The Falcons throw for around 287 yards a game due in large part to the overall success of White at opening up defenses. The Lions will have to limit the damage he can do while trying to prevent others from scoring.
Falcons' Defensive Difference Maker: William Moore, S. For Lions' fans itching to see what capable safety play looks like, watch Moore on Saturday night. He's always in good position, is a tackling machine and is capable of making the big play on defense, as evidenced by his four interceptions on the season and two forced fumbles. It's no mystery that Detroit wants to pass the ball to Calvin Johnson, but also their bevy of slot receivers over the middle of the field. Moore will make Matthew Stafford pay for his mistakes by making big plays and perhaps also laying out a few receivers.
Falcons' Major Strength: Burying weaker opponents. Diametrically opposed from the Lions who never seem to be able to bury a team when ahead, is the Falcons, a group which has scored over 30 points four times this season and even hit 40 once. All of those efforts came against teams which have mailed in the 2012 season, save last week against the Giants. One thing is certain: if you don't come to play from the first snap, Atlanta will make you pay on the scoreboard and make it ugly in the process. Detroit gave up 38 points to the Arizona Cardinals. Knowing that and understanding the balance of the Falcons' high flying offense, how ugly could the Atlanta make this one? It's not a comforting thought for Lions' fans.
Falcons' Major Weakness: Turnover ratio. You'd think a 12-2 team would protect the ball a tiny bit better, but surprisingly, the Falcons are just average in this department. Atlanta is only +9 in turnover ratio this season, and Matt Ryan himself has thrown 14 interceptions. Michael Turner has put the ball on the turf three times (only losing one fumble). The Lions will likely play Saturday night's game as if it was their Super Bowl. Atlanta can't make any big mistakes against a Detroit defense they should carve up, especially on the road, or give the Lions' passing offense any shred of hope. The only way the Lions keep this close is if the Falcons help them do it with mistakes.
Intangibles: Atlanta disinterest. The Falcons already have the NFC wrapped up, have beaten the Giants and other teams they might face in the playoffs and are essentially on cruise control until the month of January begins. Detroit, meanwhile, is trying to wash six straight games of egg off their face at home. If the Falcons don't care much about the outcome, the Lions will likely have a shot of winning. Other than that, Atlanta simply possess too much fire power for Detroit to keep pace. The Lions will have to prove they haven't quit with a crisp effort while the Falcons' thoughts will have to be somewhere else.
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