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ATLANTA FALCONS (12-2) at DETROIT LIONS (4-10)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Atlanta -4 & 50.5
Opening Line & Total: Falcons -3 (-120) & 51
After a humiliating defeat in Arizona, Detroit tries to end a six-game losing skid Saturday night when it hosts the NFC's top team, 12-2 Atlanta.
The Falcons can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win on Saturday night. They're coming off their best performance of the season, completely destroying the Giants at home. And Atlanta has been very good on the road all season, going 5-2 SU and 4-2-1 ATS away from home. The Lions continue to find new lows. They were blown out in Arizona last week, as their offense has fallen apart. They're trotting out practice squad-caliber receivers opposite Calvin Johnson, and their defense and running game continue to stink. They've lost six in a row SU (1-5 ATS).
This game is clearly a mismatch with the class of the NFC taking on a team just trying to close out its season and end the reign of their terrible head coach Jim Schwartz, who is 1-8 ATS in games where the Total is 49.5 points or more. The Lions are 0-10 ATS when playing a winning team in the second half of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and 0-9 ATS when facing excellent passing teams (64%+ comp. pct.) in this same time frame.
Ryan didn't have his best game in Detroit last year, completing just 20-of-34 passes for 218 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT in a 23-16 win. RB Michael Turner was the star that day, running for 122 yards on 27 carries (4.5 YPC). Turner has been much less effective this season (3.7 YPC), but he does have 9 TD runs including one score in each of the past five contests. He may have success against the Lions run defense (119 YPG, 18th in NFL), which has been wildly inconsistent, allowing four 130-yard games and four sub-100 yard games in the past eight contests.
Detroit's passing defense ranks 11th in the league at 218 YPG allowed, but it has also been hot-and-cold. The Lions allowed 122.5 passing YPG in the past two games (both on road), but surrendered 334.0 YPG in the two previous games (both at home). The Falcons have a top-notch receiving corps with WRs Julio Jones (1.071 rec. yds, 9 TD) and Roddy White (1,156 rec. yds, 5 TD), as well as TE Tony Gonzalez (880 rec. yds, 8 TD). Jones had 2 TD and Gonzalez added one score in the 34-0 win over New York last Sunday, but White was held to just two catches as he was less than 100 percent due to a knee injury. Atlanta protects the football extremely well on the road, committing just seven turnovers in seven away games. That doesn't bode well for a Lions team that has forced 0-to-1 turnovers in five of their past six contests, allowing 32.0 PPG during this six-game losing skid. Detroit will likely be missing two key interior linemen in DTs Corey Williams (IR, knee) and Nick Fairley (questionable, shoulder).
Detroit's offense had been pretty efficient recently before last week's debacle in the desert when it scored 10 points with four turnovers and just 312 total yards, well below its season average of 407 total YPG. The Lions have posted 25.3 PPG on 421 YPG at Ford Field this season, thanks to Matthew Stafford throwing for 341 YPG. Stafford had a tough afternoon hosting the Falcons last year though, completing just 46.9% of his passes (lowest pct. of 2011) and taking three sacks before suffering an ankle injury. Stafford has also been terrible in his past two games of 2012, throwing for just 510 yards on 95 attempts (5.4 YPA) with 1 TD and 4 INT. Luckily he still has All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson, who amassed more than 115 receiving yards for the seventh straight game last week. During this streak, he has 65 catches for 1,029 yards (147 YPG) and 4 TD. With WRs Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles all on IR, and TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) out, TE Tony Scheffler and WR Kris Durham ranked second and third in team targets last Sunday. Detroit's top-ranked passing offense (302 YPG) should be able to bounce back though, facing Atlanta's porous pass defense that has allowed 304 passing YPG in the past seven games.
The Falcons' run-stop unit is also shaky (125 YPG allowed, 24th in NFL), but the Lions gain just 104 YPG (23rd in NFL) on the ground despite their 16 rushing TD, which is tied for the fourth-most in the league. Detroit has 14 giveaways in its past six games while the Falcons have eight takeaways in the past three contests.