Coming off a pair of nerve wracking games against teams who matched up very well with the Falcons, the team gets one of its easiest games all season, on paper. As I've mentioned already, this is exactly the kind of game the Falcons are capable of losing; a weaker team with the ability to score points in gobs. Do I think that's going to happen? No, I don't. But the possibility is very real.
I'm going to set up previews a little differently now, by comparing the offense, defense, special teams, and overall chances of each team, which I will rank by The Edge:
Wait, no. Get out of my blog, Edgerrin James!
Let's try this again, but we'll call it The Wing Edge:
The O: Both teams have talented running backs...but that's about where the similiarity ends. Vick is a mobile QB with an inconsistent gun, while Kitna is a mildly mobile QB with a mildly inconsistent arm. Kitna has the advantage of a clear #1 talent at wide receiver in Roy Williams, but this week he's drawing DeAngelo Hall, who's always tough to break loose on. The Falcons will be looking to test the Lions' secondary early and often, and if that doesn't work, it'll be time for them to pound it out on the ground again. Either way, I think it's going to be nearly impossible for a Lions defense (which I think is mildly underrated) that's allowing an average of 350 yards per game. The Lions will do pretty well for themselves if they can get Kevin Jones up and running throughout the game, but it's going to be tough against the looming behemoth that is Rod Coleman. If the Falcons get good pressure on Kitna, stick a fork in the Lions.
The Wing Edge: Atlanta, whose offense is more explosive and has performed exceptionally well the last few weeks.
The D: Defense is more even then you would think, in terms of yardage. As mentioned, the Lions are surrendering a total of 350 yards per game, but Atlanta is allowing 329. The Falcons D has been increasingly porous the last couple weeks, depending on key stops at the end of the game to get by. The defense has to clamp down early on this team by taking away Roy Williams, Furrey, and Kevin Jones; this will force Kitna to seek out his lesser playmakers and use his legs, neither of which is a productive strategy. Meanwhile, the Lions have to get after Vick often. With time to throw, Crumpler and at least one other receiver are going to find the time to get open and get the ball. This will be bad news for the Lions. If Jason Webster can nail down Furrey, I like the Falcons' chances of winning this game.
The Wing Edge: Atlanta, again. The defense is built on speed and awareness, which should allow them to take care of the Lions' more dangerous players in pursuit. The Lions are going to have to clamp down hard to stop the Falcons' offense.
The ST: Not a lot to say here. The Lions have Eddie Drummond, who has developed into one of the league's premier returners, as well as a solid kicker in Jason Hanson and Nick Harris, who is averaging 44.8 yards a punt. The Lions' special teams will take care of the things they're supposed to take care of. The Falcons I'm a little more wary about. Allen Rossum is a fine returner, of course, but Morten Andersen is the only kicker in the NFL with dentures and Koenen, despite his 44.6 yards per punt average, has been head scratchingly inconsistent, typically at the worst times. I don't expect specials teams to have a giant impact on this game, though.
The Wing Edge: Detroit for this one. If anyone's going to author some nice field goals or a return for a TD, it's going to be the Lions.
Overall Wing Edge: Atlanta. Though I can't quite contain my nervous feelings, there's no reason why the Falcons can't win this game. Heck, there's no real reason why they shouldn't dominate this game. On paper, Falcons win this handily. In practice....we'll see.
Prediction: Falcons win by at least one touchdown. (Vague, no?)