Tonight’s unusual NFL Saturday Night Football game on ESPN has the potential to determine home field advantage in the NFC as the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons need one more victory to clinch. Their opponent, the struggling 4-10 Detroit Lions, have lost six straight and can do little more than try to play the role of spoiler, delivering their disgruntled fans a 2012 miracle victory for Christmas.
One needs to look no further than last week to understand how far the Lions have fallen over the course of the season. Facing an Arizona Cardinals squad with no legitimate starting quarterback and losers of nine straight, the Lions laid an egg and let the Cardinals run them out of the desert by a score of 10-38 thanks in part to three interceptions thrown by Matthew Stafford that led to 21 points against.
The only bright spot for the Lions was receiver Calvin Johnson surpassing 1,600 yards receiving to become the first ever player to achieve the feat in consecutive seasons. Johnson also caught 100 yards for the seventh consecutive game to tie another record, and needs only 182 yards in the last two games to break Jerry Rice’s all-time single-season receiving record of 1,848 yards.
The visiting Falcons could care less how many yards Johnson gets as long as they escape Detroit with a win. Their confidence should be sky high after obliterating the Giants 34-0 last week, and they could use home field advantage to help break their recent trend of first round playoff exits.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has been on fire for Atlanta, throwing six touchdowns versus only one interception over the past three games. With Michael Turner putting the ball in the end zone five straight games, the Falcons offense should cause issues for the Lions defense, especially if Stafford throws more interceptions in their own end.
Tonight’s rare Saturday Night Football game expected to crown the top dog in the NFC will be televised in high definition (HD) on ESPN. A free live streaming version of the game can be watched on your tablet, mobile phone or other portable device right here at ESPN.com. Kickoff gets underway at 8:30pm EST. My prediction is the Falcons hand the Lions their seventh consecutive loss in a convincing manner by a score of 27-9.