NFL week 16 features a rare Saturday night contest instead of a Thursday night game, as the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons take on the 4-10 Detroit Lions. Both teams were playoff bound last season, but this year the Lions are in the spoiler role, as the Falcons look to clinch home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. This game doesn’t have the significance many would have hoped before the season started, but there’s still plenty to play for regardless.
Obviously, the Falcons have the most on the line, as they aim to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Considering they’ve struggled in the postseason in recent years, failing to escape early games in each of the last two seasons, the Falcons may need all the help they can get come playoff time. However, this appears to be the best team they’ve fielded during their recent surge to prominence, so maybe home field won’t matter.
Either way, they’re up against a team they should easily be able to dispatch of in the Lions. After starting a mediocre 4-4, the Lions have crumbled, losing six consecutive games. Although many of them have been close, heart-breaking losses, there’s no excuse for a season this bad from a team that was so good just one year ago. Obviously, Detroit has talent and is capable of anything, but for some reason, things didn’t go according to plan in 2012.
But that’s why Detroit is still dangerous here. The Lions are a team with plenty of talent and nothing to lose, not to mention they are at home this week against the Falcons, which may be resting some of their players, knowing that they are already invited to the dance. However, considering how all-out they went last week, beating the Giants 34-0, maybe the Falcons will bring the same kind of intensity to this week’s game.
“We still have some things in front of us, in terms of the regular season, that we want to accomplish and get done,” said quarterback Matt Ryan via ESPN.com. Ryan is having a career year in 2012, having already broken his own team records for pass completions and passing yards in a season.
Surprisingly enough, Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford has actually throw for more yards than Ryan this season, but that’s about the only category he is better in. Still, Stafford will surely come out determined and playing his top game, no matter what the records are.
“People are competitive, people have pride. People have confidence in themselves,” said Stafford. “I think that’s what helps people bounce back from stuff like this.”
Although the Lions will surely come out gunning, they will also probably continue to make plenty of mistakes. They are a turnover prone team that will likely be exploited by a still hungry Falcons squad, which is soaring above the competition in the NFC. Look for Atlanta to cover -4 points on the road this week.