On paper, the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions have similar talent.
And based on that talent, both teams were expected to compete this fall in the NFC.
Well, the Falcons (12-2, 5-2 away) are on their way to the playoffs for the fourth time with quarterback Matt Ryan.
You can watch the Falcons and Lions on WXYZ-TV at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, and catch the Ford Lions Report Live before the game at 7 p.m. from Ford Field.
The Lions (4-10, 2-4) on the other hand, could be in for another loss Saturday when Ryan and the Falcons flock to Ford Field in Detroit.
Ryan hasn’t strung together a 40-touchdown, 5,000 passing-yard season like Lions quarterback Matt Stafford has, but he’s consistently at or around the 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has been good for at least 27 touchdowns the past three seasons.
Ryan has proven he can win games on the road when needed. Stafford has yet to prove that. The Lions’ franchise quarterback has slipped a little in performance this season and at times he’s been shaky.
However, Stafford could eventually morph into what Ryan is. It will take time, yes, but Stafford is believed to be just as talented. Like Ryan, Stafford was a highly-touted prospect coming out of college. He went second overall in the 2009 draft; Ryan was drafted third overall in 2008.
Receivers will make this game exciting to watch
This season is over. It’s been over. Even coach Jim Schwartz said this season has "gone off the rails."
For Lions fans, it’s all about the draft (sadly). Saturday, for spectators, it will be about Calvin Johnson going against an athletic Falcons secondary and Falcons stars Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez doing what they do best versus Detroit’s mish-mash of defensive backs.
We’re all hoping that Megatron catches Jerry Rice. He needs to average 91 yards in the final two games to catch the San Francisco 49ers legend. Rice speaks for a lot of record holders. He appreciates what Johnson is doing, but he doesn’t want his record broken.
It will be tough for Stafford to reach 5,000 yards this year, but there’s a good chance he’ll help Johnson make history. Atlanta gives up 230 passing yards per game. Maybe Stafford and Johnson will get it all in one go.
Detroit and Atlanta share common traits
The talent is there, so is explosive talent. Detroit has the superstar connection of Stafford and Johnson. At one point, it looked like Titus Young was upping his game, willing to become a solid No. 2 threat behind Megatron.
However, Young’s relationship with Detroit is in limbo after his choice to violate team conduct regulations.
Stafford still has to find his second option – and when he does, seasons the like the ones Ryan has will be common place for Stafford.
White and Jones combine for an exciting pair to watch. Give Johnson another – the Yin to his Yang – receiver to team up with, and Stafford should have no problem dissecting defenses.
There are similarities between Detroit and Atlanta. Falcons fans love watching their team because of its high-flying offense. The same is true for Lions fans. The only difference is winning – Atlanta does, and Detroit doesn’t.
Detroit has to be careful. The window of greatness achieved under Johnson and Stafford shrinks by the minute. The Lions can’t afford to misuse two of the NFL’s top talents.
Ryan has developed into an All-Pro quarterback that’s learned to not only work well with veterans, but also guide young receivers to success.
That could be Stafford.
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