The (12-2) Atlanta Falcons travel to Ford Field to take on the (4-10) Detroit Lions (8.30pm ET, Saturday).
At stake is the first overall seed as well as a bye in the NFC playoffs, something that the Falcons will clinch with a win.
For the Falcons, sealing up the first overall seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs is not to be overlooked. In the Matt Ryan era (2008-12), the Falcons have made the playoffs three times and are 0-3 in those contests.
They have also never had anything less than a 9-7 season, something they have assured to best this year. All that being said, it is their record at home that really stands out.
The Falcons have lost just seven games in 40 tries under Ryan. They have had the opportunity to play just one game at home during the playoffs and it was in 2010, against the Green Bay Packers team that went on to win the Super Bowl. Needless to say, Ryan and his team will be looking to win against the Lions and lock up that home field because it gives them a significantly better shot to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship.
Record Watch: (DET) WR Calvin Johnson
This season, Calvin Johnson, a six-year veteran and shoe-in for yet another Pro Bowl, is having the best season of his career. In fact, with yardage totals approaching 2,000 on the season, Johnson is having one of the best seasons of a wide receiver ever and is threatening to break the mark of most yards in a single season currently held by all-time great and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.
Johnson has faced up against some of the toughest defenses and most talented cover corners and yet has still managed to shred all of the double and even triple coverage he has gotten at times. In each of the last seven games, Johnson has caught passes for a minimum of 121 yards per game. On the season, he has caught passes for less than 100 yards only four times in the entire 16-game season. With two games remaining and just 182 yards left in order to pass Rice’s record, Johnson looks like a lock to break the record.
Against the Falcons, there is no reason to suspect that Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford won’t hook up for another 100 yard game. In fact, with an average of 119 yards per game this season, Johnson leads his nearest competitor by nearly 20 yards. In the Falcons, he will face the league’s 17th best defense and will be aided by the fact that Stafford and the Lions have the league’s best passing offense. As the only team to average over 300 passing yards a game, Johnson’s success is hinged on Stafford but also of his own making.
Although Atlanta does not have the best secondary, Johnson will be faced with one of his toughest match-ups this season. In facing Asante Samuel, who this season has allowed just over 53% of the passes thrown his way to be caught, Johnson will have his first challenge since having to tangle with a duo of dominant corners from Seattle. It is worth note that against Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor, both who last year made the Pro Bowl, Johnson caught just three passes on eight targets and managed just 46 yards. The last time, Johnson was covered by Samuel, the defender got the better of his opponent limiting Johnson to just 50 yards on four catches.
If Johnson can best Samuel however, he will have an easy time in Atlanta’s other cover corner, nine-year pro Dunta Robinson. This season, Robinson has been one of the most targeted corners and has allowed nearly 65% of passes to receivers he has covered to be completed. This no doubt, signals a favorable match-up for the taller and more athletic Johnson. Considering that Samuel has a bum shoulder, Johnson might readily be able to take advantage of this match-up and put up big numbers for the Lions.
(ATL) QB Matt Ryan and the O-Line vs. the Detroit Pass Rush
Ryan has been one of the best at his position this year and a good reason for it is that his offensive line has helped protect him against the pass rush of the opposition. Allowing just 26 sacks to Ryan this season which ranks ahead of all but six teams, the Falcons’ O-Line can be credited for giving their quarterback the time to make the down field plays he has been making all season long.
At 20th in the league in terms of total sacks, the Lions have not been as dominant as one would have expected based on the personnel they have at the defensive line positions. For the Falcons, it is also promising that 5.5 of the team’s 26 sacks is on the injured reserve list, leaving the offensive linemen to have to protect one less major threat to the quarterback. It is also encouraging that last week against what is widely considered one of the best front four in the NFL, the offensive line allowed just three quarterback hits on a total of 67 offensive plays.
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions Betting Picks Verdict
Atlanta comes into this game with an NFL best 12-2 SU record and a very respectable 8-5-1 mark ATS. They are also 9-3 ATS in their last twelve against the Lions and look to repeat that success on Saturday. In fact, other than Johnson’s shot at the record, the Lions have nothing more to play for than pride while the Falcons are very much still playing out for the coveted prize of home field in the playoffs.
- As -3.5pts road favorites, expect the Falcons to easily take home the win @ -110 odds on the spread with BetOnline. It is -4.5pts with Bovada.
- Non-Americans: Can get this wager with Bet365, BetVictor or Betfred (-3.5pts @ 10/11).
- Also with a lofty 51pts over/under total points line and the trend of these two teams playing to the under in the last five meetings in Detroit, take the points to meet the under once again @ -105 with Bovada. It is under 50.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline.
- Non-Americans: Can go under 51pts @ 10/11 with Bet365 or BetVictor.