19

December

Around the NFC North in Week 16

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 16

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.

8

October

Know Your Packers Enemy: Previewing Falcons-Packers With Dave Choate

In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with Dave Choate of the widely respected Falcons blog, TheFalcoholic.com, to talk Packers-Falcons. He was referred to me by AtlantaFalcons.com writer Daniel Cox, who turned down the request in fear of sounding too biased. Both Dave (@TheFalcoholic) and Daniel (@FalconsDCox) are excellent follows for Falcons news.

Enough of the intro’s, let’s get to the Packers-Falcons talk.

ZACH KRUSE: Expectations were (and still should be) high as ever in Atlanta heading into the season, especially with such names as Peter King picking the Falcons to win Super Bowl XLVI in SI’s NFL preview. Packers fans know all about those kind of expectations, as last season Green Bay was the trendy pick to win it all. The Falcons haven’t exactly lived up to those high expectations yet in 2011, but remember, the Packers were just 3-3 after six games last season. Is there any sense of panic or lower feelings for this season being 2-2?

DAVE CHOATE: It’s happening quickly. There are many, many fans who have abandoned the Falcons playoff wagon entirely, leaving it a torched shell. Others barely think the Falcons will get a winning season at this point. That’s balanced out by a number of fans who think it’s all overblown. Personally, I haven’t wavered from my 11-5 prediction, and don’t plan to do so even if the Falcons lose to the Packers. It’s just too early.

ZK: Both Matt Ryan and Mike Smith have stated that Sunday night’s game has nothing to do with revenge. Are you on that same page? Is this just another Week 5 game, or does this one carry any added importance?

DC: I think it only carries added importance because the Packers are 4-0 and one of the best teams in the NFC. Every team should want to prove they can beat a team like that.

ZK: Let’s talk about Michael Turner. Everyone always talks about Ryan and Roddy White, but Turner, in my opinion, is the engine that makes this offense go. And wouldn’t you know it, the Falcons are 2-0 when Turner carries the ball 20 times or more this season. What does he mean in a more specific way to the offense, and has there been any drop off in the running game that you’ve seen this season after losing Harvey Dahl to the Rams?