Thursday, December 20, 2012

NFL WEEK 16 - SATURDAY GAME PREVIEW

ATLANTA @ DETROIT
How can anyone put faith in a Detroit team that turned the ball over four times to the Arizona Cardinals, while only sacking Ryan Lindley once?  Meanwhile, Atlanta comes off its most lopsided win of the season against the normally December-potent Giants. 

Some owners might worry about the fact the Falcons have clinched the division as a reason they might dial this one in.  Don’t worry about it.  However, it may mean even more rushing attempts for Michael Turner, who has absolutely trounced Detroit in his three career meetings against them.  His last game at Ford Field was last year where he turned 27 carries into 122 yards.  His meeting prior to that he went 20 carries for 220 yards.  This is a prime matchup for Turner on the road, and anything less than 125 yards would be an unexpected disappointment.  The Falcons also have protected Matt Ryan well to the tune of 25 sacks, ranking him higher than 21 other quarterbacks.  With Ryan’s downfield weaponry and the loss of DT Nick Fairley for Detroit, expect that Atlanta’s passing game will heat things up should the running attack falter.  Wide receiver Roddy White factored little against New York, and there is reason to be concerned here.  Detroit has done a great job despite their losing streak shutting down their opposing WR1.  In fact, the last WRs to score against the Lions were Randall Cobb and Donnie Avery (twice), so Julio Jones’ speed could easily play well here.  And since only seven teams allow more points to opposing TEs as well, so you can expect Tony Gonzalez to be a red zone target as well.

Turner owns a career 6.85 ypc vs. Detroit
The Lions face an Atlanta team that has had tremendous problems stopping the run.  They did a fair job last week, but most of that can be attributed to the blowout by halftime.  Surrendering 4.9 yards per carry and 14 rushing touchdowns on the year, the Falcons front seven provides a decent RB2 matchup for both Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure.  Some people fear Leshoure as his carries have decreased slightly, but in the last three weeks he’s put up 12, 14 and 11 fantasy points, most for any Detroit RB in ESPN standard scoring leagues.  Bell makes up his points in PPR because he has 41 receptions for nearly 400 yards.  However, Bell has found the end zone just three times, and Leshoure is getting red zone carries nearly every game.  Detroit’s offense still ranks second in the league and will get him another shot at a touchdown again.  Of course, no matter how good a secondary is, stopping Calvin Johnson is just no easy task.  He has exploded that last six weeks for no less than double digit points in each of them.  Atlanta has relinquished just 13 passing touchdowns, standing as one of the few teams that gives up more touchdowns on the ground than through the air.  Matthew Stafford’s season has been a souring experience in terms of TDs as it is.  You can do better than risk your season behind Stafford’s shaky 59.5 percent completion percentage, and I’d taper Megatron’s points expectation to just yardage tallies.  He’ll have another 100-125 yards and could find one touchdown, but you can bet Atlanta is going to do everything to double and triple team him with the likes of Mike Thomas, Kris Durham and Stefan Logan being the alternatives.  Tony Scheffler saw seven targets last week and has had no less than three catches in each of the past three games. 

Atlanta wants the home field advantage, and with Michael Turner laying the framework for owning the clock, the Falcons will put Detroit again in the unenviable position of playing from behind.  Stafford doesn’t have enough healthy players left in his offense, and Atlanta will seal the deal this weekend.


FALCONS 27, LIONS 13