The Atlanta Falcons have stormed through the regular season with a 12-2 record and can lock up a first-round playoff bye Sunday with a win over the Detroit Lions. That seems like an easy enough task, but the dirty birds do have a significant hurdle.
"It's really not about them. It's about us," Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones told NFL Network reporter Michelle Beisner, who's in Atlanta this week. "It's the little things. We can get bored
. We lost against Carolina. We were kinda bored with it -- looking at their record -- I just think we got bored. There are no excuses because they whooped us, but we can't let that happen again.
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"We can't get bored. We have to prepare like we're playing the best team in the NFL. We gotta go out there and play Falcon football. We gotta execute, and our guys have to be on the same page and play 100 percent."
I don't think Jones meant to be funny, but there's a lot of humor in that statement. No. 1, he dismissed the Lions so quickly. No. 2, he basically said the Panthers are so bad, they're boring. No. 3, he said the Lions are approaching that previously mentioned boring status.
I guess the Lions aren't exactly striking fear into the hearts of opponents these days.http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap100000 ... -get-bored
FLOWERY BRANCH–Just one good night in Detroit will set the Falcons up for a relatively relaxed three weeks in Atlanta.
Win at Detroit on Saturday and the Falcons (12-2) will earn a bye for the first weekend of the playoffs and wouldn’t need to leave the Georgia Dome to win the NFC title. The result of their game against the Buccaneers on Dec. 30 would become moot.
For the Falcons, it’s all about clinching home field when they go to Detroit’s Ford Field.
“That’s the thing that is in reach,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We’ve got to go out and play effectively this week. Our goal is to win every game we play and then we will figure out what happens after that.”
Defeat the Lions (4-10) and Falcons players are likely to be off until after Christmas Day. When they returned to work, the team’s regulars would enjoy a light practice week and look forward to either sitting out the Buccaneers game or logging just a handful of plays.
Lose to the Lions and Atlanta still could earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by defeating the Buccaneers. But they’d squander the other benefits of wrapping up the No. 1 seed this weekend and lose the good vibes generated by their 34-0 victory over the Giants last Sunday.
The Falcons ultimately will be judged by their postseason results because they’ve lost all three playoff games under Smith. A victory at Detroit would be more evidence that they are primed to end that streak.
“Are we different (at this point of the season) than we have been in the past? Absolutely, we are definitely a different football team,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “But I think our confidence has been at a high level the entire year.”
The Falcons will encounter a wounded and wobbling Lions team at Ford Field.
Detroit is finishing up a miserable, injury-riddled season. The Lions have lost six games in a row
, including a 38-10 defeat at Arizona (5-9) on Sunday that represented their worst beating of the season
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he has no plans to alter his playing rotations to get his younger players experience.
“You don’t have time to experiment, I guess, for lack of a better word,” he said. “You have to go with the guys that you think give you the best chance of winning every single week. If you start looking at things other than that, you’re on the wrong track.”
The only compelling storyline remaining for the Lions is wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s chase for an NFL record. Johnson, the former star at Sandy Creek High and Georgia Tech, needs 182 yards to break Jerry Rice’s season record for receiving yards ( 1,848).
The Falcons said they don’t want to get too focused on limiting Johnson’s numbers.
“He’s going to get his,” Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. “You always have to be aware where he’s at. If we can limit him, we can’t let other guys beat us.”
The Falcons still need to tune their play before the postseason. At the top of the list are their season-long issues with both running the ball and stopping the run consistently.
Plus, it was less than two weeks ago that the Falcons flopped in a 30-20 defeat at Carolina.
“We played a better game (against the Giants), but we’re still far, far away from the perfect game,” Smith said. “That’s what we’re striving to do is to play a perfect game.”http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-falcons-bl ... hin-reach/