The Detroit Lions vs the Atlanta Falcons

The Detroit Lions have young but very good talent on defense. The Atlanta Falcons have a very talented veteran offense. Atlanta should win, however ...

The Atlanta Falcons have elite talent on offense. The Detroit Lions have very good talent on defense. They are not equal, especially where experience is concerned. The Falcons are a veteran offense where the Lions defense has veterans but enough inexperienced first and second-year players to be vulnerable.

Can the Lions defense succeed? They already have. We are early enough in the season that we are still using measurable’s from last year, but results are accumulating that begin to tell who these teams are this year. Detroit has already faced three first and goal situations where they’ve given up just six points. That works out to nine plays by the offense who couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone. The Lions are number one in red zone offense but their defense is no pushover either as they rank the fourth best run defense in the NFL.

Scoreboards and records

Last year the Falcons had eleven games where both teams scored more than 21 points, winning nearly two-thirds of them (7-4). The Lions were 3-3 in like games, so, that would seem to favor the Falcons, however, Jim Caldwell has a history of winning one score games well over 60 percent of the time. The numbers bear him out as his record in one-score games is 34-19 and show both Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford winning over 60 percent of their chances. Now, the average NFL head coach has a 50-50 chance in those same one-score games. Last year the Lions were 8-5 in one-score games or 61.5 percent and Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn, was 4-4 … advantage Lions.

Jim Caldwell has his team practice the two-minute drill at the end of each practice. He has a special method of practicing stress in the last two minutes and it’s a method that has served him very well, i.e. his record in one-score games. Quinn’s Falcons are well aware of Stafford’s reputation of coming from behind in the fourth quarter. So, even in a high scoring game, unless Atlanta can pull away for a comfortable win there will be an ominous feeling on the Falcons’ defense. That is where Detroit can impose their own version of experience and pull out a win at home.

I don’t see this as a low-scoring game because of the inexperience of the Lions defense. I also don’t see Atlanta pulling away from the Lions because of their masterful defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, who always seems able to keep his team in the game, thus, the numerous opportunities for Stafford to mount his comebacks.

Jim Caldwell gets a new contract

It’s being reported by the ESPN’s Adam Shefter that Lions head coach Jim Caldwell has signed a new contract many weeks ago. Virtually since the day he was hired his critics have been asking him when he expected to be fired. In typical Jim Caldwell fashion he stayed quiet and reserved and kept his business private. In doing so, he let his critics’ anxieties fester as to his future. He handled it much like his weekly injury updates … check the report.

Promotions and predictions

Local beat writers for the Lions are coming around and believing in the Lions resurgence, even this week against the defending NFC Champions:

Jamie Samuelsen, Detroit Free Press: “The Lions are good. They’ve taken care of business for the first two weeks, something a lot of other good teams haven’t done yet.”

Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press: “But if the Lions keep doing what they are doing against even better teams – forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball – this team could be scary good.”

Justin Rodgers, Detroit Free Press podcast: His pick this week: Detroit over Atlanta

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press: “Say what you want about the competition they’ve faced, but the Lions have been one of the NFL’s most impressive teams so far this year. Lions 31 Falcons 28”

Chris Decker, RealSport: I’m taking Atlanta in OT 26-23  (In OT, Prater misses his first 50 yard FG ending his streak of twelve.)

Simply put, the Lions are not going undefeated this year, and neither are the Falcons, but a loss should in no way diminish the quality of either team. I do believe the Lions can sweep the Packers this year. I had them splitting the season series, but with all the injuries Green Bay has incurred it’s a decided advantage for Detroit. Minnesota won’t be competitive until their QB, Sam Bradford, can show he can perform with his bad knees, which have been a problem throughout his career. That only leaves the lowly Chicago Bears.

So, I’ll leave you with one final prediction. The Detroit Lions will win the NFC North this year. They will win their first playoff game in 25 years … at home. That should pit them against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game this coming January. By then the experience factor will have evened out and it will be an eventful game between Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan and I’m not exactly sure who will be the home team.

Lions GM Bob Quinn has done a masterful job of rebuilding the team’s roster. Already, in just his first two off-seasons, he has rotated out two-thirds of the roster he inherited, reached the postseason with his first roster and a 2-0 start with his second. In his first NFL Draft, Quinn had ten picks, six of them went to the offensive or defensive lines. He has since signed OG Pro Bowl free agent T.J. Lang and the best rated RT in free agency Rick Wagner.

To further bolster the Lions blocking he signed free agent Darren Fells, one of the NFL’s best blocking TE. The results are a current 11-7 record which includes a 2-0 start this year. With a little tweaking to my preseason picks I now have the Lions finishing with an 11-5 record.

The ghosts of the Lions’ past

Here’s the point: The ghosts of the Lions’ past are not the history of those who are in charge of Detroit today. They are separate histories. Their records are not parallels but polar opposites. The Lions’ organization believes in themselves and proof of that came today when word leaked out of Jim Caldwell’s contract extension before the season even began. Preseason predictions only saw a couple of optimistic results for the 2017 season. Most had Detroit finishing under .500, but the ghosts of the Lions’ past still haunt them for when they win it’s usually because the other team isn’t any good.

Doesn’t matter, the Lions are the underdogs week in and week out. However, there is a growing mentality that the Detroit Lions are actually making their opponents look bad. It’s a hard concept for many to warm up to given the last 60 years, but from current Lions’ owner, Martha Ford, all the way down to head coach, Jim Caldwell, these Detroit Lions are not the SOL (Same Old Lions) and the numbers back them up.

For those of you who have followed my articles, thank you.

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Chris Decker