The seventh week of the NFL season has a surprisingly few premier games on the schedule. There is one game that stands out among the many others though. On Sunday, at 1:00 PM ET, the Atlanta Falcons will travel to Ford Field to play the Detroit Lions.
This game is particularly important to both football teams. The Atlanta Falcons are 3-3 and in third place in the NFC South. They are chasing the Bucs and Saints, both of whom are 4-2. If they hope to remain a threat in the division and, more importantly, keep a playoff berth within sight, then they need this win desperately. So far it seems as though the two wild cards are coming out of the NFC North and NFC South, so this is an early must-win game for the Falcons.
The Lions harbor hopes of earning a first round bye, which will require 5-1 Detroit to catch 6-0 Green Bay. Lions tickets for this game are not NFL tickets for a must-win game, but a game that is very advisable lest they fall two games behind the Packers.
The team stats definitely favor the Lions. Detroit has been a pass happy team since the beginning of the season, and now that the Lions are missing Jahvid Best they should be an even more pass heavy football team. Matthew Stafford is averaging 272.5 yards a game and has thrown 15 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. The Falcons defense has allowed 226.2 passing yards a game. That is the 13th worst in the league, so the Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection should have a field day. The only hope is that the opportunistic secondary add to its nine interceptions in 2011.
I would expect safety Thomas DeCoud to come over the top on double coverage for Johnson all day. Atlanta should be able to keep him in coverage since the rush defense is already one of the best in the NFL and the Lions struggle running the football when they have their starting running back. Maurice Morris is the third string, so I doubt he is going to challenge the Falcons front seven.
Still, never underestimate the motivation generated by desperation. The Falcons were able to keep up with Vick and beat the Eagles and contain Cam Newton and defeat the Panthers. Obviously, this football team has the potential to upset the Lions. Otherwise this game would not be my game of the week.