A rare Saturday night NFL match-up kicks off the holiday season as the Atlanta Falcons travel to Ford Field to take on the struggling Detroit Lions. This is an important game for Atlanta as they are just one away from clinching the NFC’s number one seed.
The Falcons thrive playing indoors, and a win in Detroit would mean Atlanta could go the rest of the year playing in domed stadiums. Atlanta enters this contest boasting a stellar 12-2 record, though many still feel they aren’t the NFL’s top team despite their record. The Falcons have encountered their fair share of close losses to sub-par teams and could easily have a 10-4 record if it weren’t for some fortunate bounces. That said, Atlanta remains a premier team and will be looking to make an emphatic statement as they head into the post-season. The fact that Atlanta could also rest some of their banged up players in Week 17 is a factor that cannot be forgotten before this game. On the injury front, just Falcons safety William Moore will be out due to a lingering hamstring injury.
For the Lions it’s simply been a disastrous 2012 campaign. After the hope built in 2011, Detroit couldn’t follow that up and now seem to have quite the uncertain future. They enter this contest with a brutal 4-10 record, and when you consider the talent this team possesses, it’s more than a tad surprising. Last week they were blown out by a brutal Cardinals team, and you can’t help but wonder if this Lions team has completely checked out on this season. Detroit was embarrassed last week, and though they’ve vowed to improve and end their losing streak, it won’t be easy against a motivated Falcons group preparing for the playoffs. Unfortunately they’ll have to do it without key tight-end Brandon Pettigrew, who is unlikely to suit up due to an ankle injury, and important defensive lineman Nick Fairley.
Falcons vs. Lions Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons –3.5 (-110)
@ Detroit Lions +3.5 (-110)
Over 51 (-110)
Under 51 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Lions Pick:
After only netting 10 points last week against an awful Cardinals side, how exactly do the Lions plan on scoring against an improved Falcons defense that shut out the Giants last week? Oddsmakers have set this game with a total of 51 points, and that is a number that seems far too high.
Matthew Stafford has really regressed this season, a huge reason why the Lions have struggled so much. He has committed an unacceptable 9 turnovers in his last five contests, including two pick-sixes last week in Arizona. You have to feel for Stafford though as he truly only has one option to throw to, and that’s Calvin Johnson. Opposing defenses are well aware of this however, and will double-team Johnson at will, leaving Stafford with few other alternatives in the passing game
If Detroit is to have success moving the football, the recipe to beating Atlanta is a solid running game. The Falcons have conceded 4.5 yards per carry this season, ranking them 23rd in the NFL in that regard. Expect a ton of run plays from Detroit, and look for both Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell to be effective when given the football.
For Atlanta, they’re just looking to get through this game with a win and no additional injuries. Nick Fairley was having a massive season until he got hurt two weeks ago, and his absence will be huge. The Lions struggle to stop the run as is, and without Fairley they’ve got no shot. Look for Atlanta to try and keep Matt Ryan safe and hand the ball off to their running backs with regularity. Both Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers are effective rushers, and should be able to move the chains on the ground.
The Falcons typically play down to their level of competition, while the Lions seem adamant they’re going to avenge last week’s dismal showing. For those reasons, picking a side in this contest seems a little too difficult. The value lies on the Under. Primetime games have been falling well short of the set total at staggering rates in 2012 and expect this contest to be no different. Both teams can’t stop the run, while possessing effective run games, and expect that to be the big theme of this contest. Running plays kill valuable clock time, and keep it ticking en route to a low-scoring encounter. Something along the lines of a 23-20 scoreline seems inevitable.
PICK = Under 51 (-110)