DETROIT – The Atlanta Falcons have proven they’re good enough to dominate a division leader.
Atlanta is coming off a 34-0 victory over the New York Giants, putting the NFC South champions within one win of earning home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
The Falcons, though, showed the previous week just how vulnerable they can be against one of the NFC’s worst teams, losing by double digits to the Carolina Panthers.
“You can’t just show up if you’re going to beat a team,” Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “Maybe we learned that at Carolina. Maybe that loss was something good for us.”
The Falcons (12-2) will find out soon if they learned their lesson.
It would be easy to overlook the lowly Detroit Lions (4-10) because they have lost six straight and were bad enough to lose to Arizona last week 38-10, allowing the Cardinals to end a nine-game slide.
Matt Ryan said the Falcons have too much at stake for a letdown.
“What’s still in front of us in terms of the playoff picture and those kind of things, I think is all the motivation we need,” Ryan said. “It’s not something I worry about.”
Atlanta will have some worries on defense tonight in Detroit. A pair of players who played college ball in the Peach State, receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford, are sources of pride for the Lions and causes of concern for opponents.
Johnson, the first player in league history with 1,600-plus yards receiving in two straight seasons, has matched a league record with 100 yards receiving in seven straight games. He’s 182 yards through the air from breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season NFL mark.
Stafford, like the team he leads, has taken a step back this season a year after he led the Lions to 10 wins, ending an 11-year postseason drought.