Our fearless leader Dave Choate exchanged a few questions with Sean Yuille over at SB Nation's Pride of Detroit to get a little insight from a Lions' expert himself. You can see Dave's answers here. Check out what Sean had to say below.
I think Matthew Stafford is experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump. While he is actually in his fourth season in the NFL, 2011 was his first full year where injuries didn't force him to miss time. This year, Stafford has certainly taken a step back. His decision making has been very questionable at times, and his penchant for changing throwing motions during games has been a bit worrisome. It's still clear that he has the potential to be a great quarterback, but to take that next step he really needs to cut down on the mistakes. Of course, having so many of his receivers change over the course of the season (because of injuries or disciplinary issues) hasn't helped, but Stafford really needs to focus on improving this upcoming offseason. Really, the same could be said for the entire team.
2) Ndamukong Suh seems to be a magnet for controversy, but I'm more worried about his ability to get after Matt Ryan. How would you stop him if you were the Falcons?
The best way to take Ndamukong Suh out of a game as much as possible is to double team him. This has been a problematic solution for some teams this season because it creates room for Nick Fairley to do damage, but he is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Corey Williams is also out for the season, meaning there is a lot less talent around Suh at defensive tackle than there was a couple weeks ago. Atlanta should be able to focus on stopping Suh and not worry as much about what the other defensive tackles can do.
3) If you're the Falcons, do you gameplan to stop Calvin Johnson or do you accept that it's impossible and try to shut down everyone else?
Given that the Lions have lost Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles to season-ending injuries and Titus Young to stupidity (he is on IR, but that was really just a cover for the Lions to shelve him for the season), what's left of the Lions' receiving corps isn't really a big threat. The same goes for the tight end position with Brandon Pettigrew dealing with an ankle injury. The Cardinals showed last Sunday that you can focus on stopping Calvin Johnson and still shut down the rest of Stafford's targets. Johnson will still get his yards, but the key is to make sure he doesn't do a ton of damage. In Johnson's case, that means holding him to 120 or so yards and keeping him out of the end zone. I would look at what the Cardinals did and stick two defenders on him at almost all times. Johnson still can make plays, but the potential for him to break off a big play is significantly less.
4) Is there a player on each side of the ball that Falcons fans might not be aware of, but who might have an outsized impact on this game ?
On offense, running back Joique Bell has really emerged as a solid contributor. He is a good runner, and he can make plays out of the backfield as a receiver as well. Bell and Mikel Leshoure will get almost all of the carries for the Lions, and Bell is somebody who has served as the Lions' closer this year. By that, I mean that the Lions increase his playing time in the second half with the hopes of sparking the offense. As of late, he has gotten more and more playing time in the first half as well, and he seems to be trending upward as a contributor in the offense.
On defense, Sammie Hill will have to play well at defensive tackle. He has always been a solid rotational player for the Lions, but with Fairley and Williams out, he will get a chance to start, and he will need to make an impact if the Lions are going to have any shot at getting to Matt Ryan on a consistent basis.
5) Classic question: Prediction for this one?
I don't think the Lions will win this game, but I do think they will keep it close. Record aside, Ford Field will be pretty rowdy for a Saturday night game on ESPN, and that homefield advantage will give the team a bit of a lift. In the end, the talent difference will prevail, but I don't expect the Lions to collapse and be blown out like they were in Arizona last week.