The Falcons, fresh off of making a statement against the Giants last week, travel to face the sliding Lions on Saturday night.
Judging by last week's results alone, two teams can't be going in two diametrically opposite directions much more than the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions currently are. When they meet in Week 16 on Saturday night, one will be playing to keep their hold of home-field advantage in the NFC, and the other will be trying to snap a six-game losing skid.
Now at 12-2 overall, Atlanta needs a win to assure that the upcoming NFC playoffs will go through the Georgia Dome. In Detroit, however, the Lions may need to turn their season around with two weeks left to ease their head coach, Jim Schwartz, off of the hot seat.
Meet the Detroit Lions
The Lions may have hit rock bottom in Week 15, falling to the Arizona Cardinals -- a team that had previously dropped its last nine contests -- in a not-very-close fashion, 38-10. Earlier this week, Schwartz didn't exactly give himself a vote of confidence when he said that his team has "gone off the rails" in 2012.
One of the lone bright spots in Detroit, however, has been wide receiver Calvin Johnson. His 1,667 receiving yards ranks first in the league, and he is now just 182 yards away from breaking Jerry Rice's single-season receiving record. Johnson also has five touchdowns and 106 receptions, which is good for second in the NFL.
Meet the Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta made up for its second loss of the season in Week 14 -- a 30-20 loss on the road to the Carolina Panthers -- with perhaps the team's most impressive victory of the season, a 34-0 shellacking of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
With a win on Saturday night, the Falcons clinch home-field advantage for the postseason. Quarterback Matt Ryan is second in the league with a 68.5 completion percentage, and throwing to receivers like Roddy White and Julio Jones probably helps. As a duo, Jones and White have combined to catch 14 touchdowns and have amassed over 2,000 receiving yards together.
Local Takes: Lions
Sean Yuille from Pride Of Detroit says the future for Lions' coach Jim Schwartz is still up in the air:
"Now, just because some fans want a change to be made doesn't mean it'll happen. I still would be pretty shocked if the Lions decide to fire Schwartz simply because he was just given a contract extension last summer. And while 2012 has been a train wreck, he did lead the Lions to the playoffs in 2011. I just don't expect the Lions to make a change even though they could lose eight games in a row to finish the season."
Local Takes: Falcons
Alex Welch from The Falcoholic says Atlanta played its best game of the season last week against the Giants:
"To say their victory over New York was impressive would be quite the understatement. Most Falcons fans felt confident this team could walk away with vengeance stemming from last year's playoff defeat, but I doubt anyone seriously expected a complete walkover against a team that just throttled the Saints."
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
I know it's way too early to even ask, but who do you want the #Lions to take with their first-round pick?— Pride Of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) December 18, 2012
Injuries lead the way as a concern, possibly due to Runaround Suh.— Dave Choate (@TheFalcoholic) December 18, 2012
@davebirkett - Dave Birkett, Lions beat writer for the Detroit Free Press.
Schwartz on his weekly spot on 97.1 "We have a system, we have a plan, we believe very strongly in that. You cant change course every 2 sec"— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 18, 2012
@FalconsJAdams - Jay Adams, Digital Content Manager for the Falcons.
It's MNF, but Xmas even is Monday, so they moved it. RT @jerdavis05 why do the Falcons play on Saturday?— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) December 18, 2012
On the surface, picking this game should be obvious. The Falcons are probably going to get the No. 1 seed and the Lions definitely aren't making the playoffs. But that Detroit team could be in a position where it is playing for the future of coach Jim Schwartz, whose seat is at least a little warm. Will Detroit play for Schwartz? I think so. This is your upset special: Detroit will finish the season strong and beat the Falcons on Saturday night.
The pick: 34-30, Lions
The Falcons opened the week as three-point favorites on the road, according to OddsShark, and the line has since shifted all the more, now favoring Atlanta by four points. The over/under point total for the contest began at 51 and now rests slightly lower, at 50½.