Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI - Matt Ryan and Micheal Turner
This week we'll learn an awful lot about the character of this rendition of the Detroit Lions. How will the team respond to it's first loss? How will they handle being favored against another pretty good team?
Will they bounce back and trounce the 3-3 Atlanta Falcons? Or will they start to fall back into their old habits which lead to the long streak of losing seasons they are still a part of?
In 2008, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan's rookie season, the Falcons opened the season visiting Ford Field. The Lions were coming off an a "momentum building" 4-0 preseason record....On the first offensive play of the year, on Matt Ryan's first pass of his career...the rookie QB in his first start ever against a team that was supposedly playoff worthy...was a lightning shot to Roddy White that went for 80+ yards and a touchdown..
The first step toward 0-16...
The Falcons, on the other hand, managed to make the playoffs behind that same rookie quarterback...
On Sunday, they'll return to the scene of the crime. On Sunday, the Lions will have a chance to change the city's memories of that horrible day...or they have the chance to reinforce those memories. That year, the Falcons showed the world that the Lions were less than real...that their 4-0 preseason record was a total farce...this year, they can do the same thing, they can show the world that the Lions 5-0 season opening streak was against BAD teams--Dallas Cowboys 2-3, Minnesota Vikings 1-5, Chicago Bears 1-3, Kansas City 2-3, Tampa Bay 4-2 (But beaten by 40+ points by the Niners...)
Of course if they manage to beat the Falcons...that may just add to that argument as Atlanta will fall to 3-4.
Falcons Offense vs Lions Defense
I think this is where all of the water boils away in this game....Can the Lions vaunted front four stop Micheal Turner like they couldn't stop Frank Gore? Can they manage to get Matt Ryan down on the ground, instead of just rushed and flushed from the pocket, like they did against Alex Smith?
Personally, I really, really, really want to be wrong...but I don't think they can.
Falcons Defense vs Lions Offense
Even without a running game, I think the Lions have the advantage here. The fact that the Lions can't run, actually plays into the game plan....the Falcons are ranked sixth against the run...if their strength is defending the run...the Lions weren't going to do much of that anyway.
Look for more throws to Pettigrew over the middle. Look for Stafford to rebound, to throw more accurate passes to Titus Young, Nate Burleson and at least one more touchdown to Calvin Johnson.
I don't want to be the guy to jump off the bandwagon after a particularly ugly, albeit close, defeat. So I'm not jumping off...but I am wondering where the Lions are going to pick up another five wins this year on their run to their first playoff appearance of the decade. Yes, they have another game with each of Minnesota, Chicago, Denver and Carolina...but they also have two games against Green Bay, another against New Orleans, San Diego, and Oakland.
It is my humble opinion that the Lions really, really need this game...but Turner and Ryan may prove to be too much for the Lions defense. This'll be close and I really, really want to be wrong but...