With just two games left in the 2012 regular season, there is a full slate in the NFC North this week. Each game carries its own significance as far as the playoff race is concerned as at least one team in each matchup is fighting for better playoff seeding and some are fighting to just get in, period.
Let’s take a look at the implications in each matchup.
Atlanta Falcons (12-2) at Detroit Lions (4-10)
The only reason this game is listed first is because it is the lone Saturday game and takes place before all others. Beyond that, it all comes down to a very complete Falcons team coming into Detroit to face arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL this season.
Last weekend, Detroit was manhandled by the Arizona Cardinals 38-10. Arizona had previously lost their last nine straight games. The Lions have succeeded in one thing this season: finding many ways to lose a game. While they won’t be appearing in the postseason this year, they will have plenty of time during the offseason to figure out why.
The biggest question in Detroit right now is who will still be with the team in 2013? Head coach Jim Schwartz will surely be the topic of those conversations during the winter.
While Atlanta has wrapped up the NFC South and currently has the best record in the NFC, they have yet to secure the first or second seed in the postseason. They have their eyes set on being the top seed and therefore also securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Falcons can do so by winning their last two games, regardless of what any of the other contenders do.
However, a loss by Atlanta would begin to open a door for both the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, who currently hold the second and third seeds, respectively.
While the Lions have pride to play for and certainly fit the bill of a team that could be pesky during these last two weeks, I don’t expect that pride to get them anywhere near Atlanta’s level this week. Detroit’s best chance of success this week will probably be the 50% odds they have in winning the opening coin toss.