LIVE: Falcons’ win over Lions crucial to playoff hopes

DETROIT — This is what I see when I look out of my hotel window . . .

That's Comerica Park on the left, Ford Field on the right.

That's Comerica Park (Tigers' home) on the left, Ford Field (Lions' home) on the right.

This is what I see when I look out the back of my hotel coffee shop . . .

That's Caesars Palace and the casinos of Windsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit river.

That's Caesars Palace and the casinos of Windsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit river.

So yeah, I was tempted. But then I remembered I wouldn’t get a paycheck if I chose option No. 2. So here I am. (Besides, the casinos will still be there tonight. The challenge: Making a receipt for red and blue chips look like lunch with Thomas Dimitroff.)

The Falcons play the Detroit Lions today. I would never refer to a game in Week 7 as “must-win” but this comes pretty close. Here’s why: A win leaves the Falcons at 4-3 before the bye week, still in a contention to win the NFC South (which nobody is running away with) or a wild card berth. But a loss drops them further down in the division and playoff race, as they’ve already lost three conference games (Chicago, Tampa Bay, Green Bay).

A few weeks ago, it seemed the Falcons had little chance to win this game. They were struggling on both sides of the ball, the Lions were rolling and the team seemed to have no answer for stopping Matthew Stafford (a weak pass rush) or Calvin Johnson (a shaky secondary).

Stafford-to-Johnson still presents a problem. Those two have hooked up for 36 passes covering 564 yards and nine touchdowns already this season. But defensive end Ray Edwards finally is starting to make an impact on defense and Sean Weatherspoon has been strong the last few weeks.

Here’s Mike Smith on Edwards earlier in the week: “I really think that Ray is becoming more comfortable in our scheme. He’s been able to win the snap. When I say win the snap, his first step has been very quick and he’s been able to get on some edges. Sacks sometimes are overrated but we are seeing the type of pressure that we need to see from Ray.”

Another positive: The offensive line had its best game of the season last week against Carolina. Left tackle Sam Baker (lower back) is out this game and he’ll be replaced by Will Svitek. That’s only a major issue if you’re a huge Sam Baker fan but it does cut into depth. As expected, Julio Jones (hamstring) also is out. (I’ll list the rest of the inactives in the comments section.)

Detroit is struggling in two key areas: running the ball and stopping the run. They’ve lost Jahvid Best for possibly the season and will rely on backup Maurice Morris. That means the Lions will have to attack with their passing game. One huge key will be the Falcons’ defense on third down. They have the worst third-down defense in the NFL, having allowed opponents to convert 39 of 79 attempts (49.4 percent).

I’ll stick with my pick: Falcons win a close game, with Michael Turner and the running game being the difference. But I wouldn’t bet it.

Time to kick off the live blog. Then game time. I’m here to serve.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

1,942 comments Add your comment

Jeff Schultz

October 23rd, 2011
11:55 am

Here’s the Falcons’ full inactive list: WR Julio Jones, CB Chris Owens, CB Darrin Walls, C Brett Romberg, OT Sam Baker, DT Carlton Powell, DE Cliff Matthews. … WIll Svitek starts for Baker at left tackle. Harry Douglas starts for Jones at wideout.

Bear

October 23rd, 2011
11:56 am

If we can run the ball well and keep stafford and Johnson on the bench we will win this game.

Alaska Dawg

October 23rd, 2011
12:03 pm

Bear, I agree time of possession is crucial. I still am not a believer in our secondary stopping anyone. Remember our ability to make Tavares Jackson look like Joe Montana.

Joey

October 23rd, 2011
12:03 pm

Should find out a lot about the team’s mettle today – good, bad, and/or ugly.

Fred Macmurray

October 23rd, 2011
12:03 pm

Sam Bakers out,, I like our chances

Fred Macmurray

October 23rd, 2011
12:06 pm

We need to hurt Stafford.

DJ Frisco

October 23rd, 2011
12:06 pm

It’ll be nice when we actually use Darrin Walls for more than riding the bench. He’s like 6′0. A much needed height for a CB. He has a 28 inch vert and runs a 4.4 40-yd dash. He should at least be on special teams.

Alaska Dawg

October 23rd, 2011
12:06 pm

Jeff, in case the night turns you in to a casino millionaire and a retiree, what are your early thoughts on UGA/FL. I am really worried that FL has lost 3 games. A desperate Gator team will be dangerous and UGA is bordering on hitting 100 in the number of ways to choke against the dreaded team from Gainesville.

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:07 pm

Making the Chip recipe look like lunch? How do you make the call girl bill look like Legitimate Entertainment? LOL

The Spirit of UGA VII

October 23rd, 2011
12:11 pm

We’re gonna get beat worse than a Ford Pinto at the Indy 500. But enjoy your fantasy.

chalkdawg4

October 23rd, 2011
12:11 pm

Jeff – glad you are there – I was beginning to wonder. Damn we need this game. Go Falcons!!!

ME TOO

October 23rd, 2011
12:12 pm

There are a lot of good offensive players on the bench who never see the light of day. What have they done to make the coaching staff mad at them? Or is the coaching staff just MAD?

Jeff Schultz

October 23rd, 2011
12:12 pm

Alaska Dawg — I’ll hold off on a prediction until Friday (online Thursday).

Jeff Schultz

October 23rd, 2011
12:16 pm

Some kind of “confrontation” just took place in the corner of the field, near the players’ entrance/exit tunnel. Falcons players were coming onto the field. Lions’ players were standing there in a big huddle. Didn’t see punches thrown but officials had to intercede.

Matt for MN

October 23rd, 2011
12:22 pm

Itsa gonna be a ugly, ugly game for da Birdies. I see the l-w-l-w-l-w pattern staying the same.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:27 pm

So Blank gave up his entire 2012 draft for a gifted rookie, but what does CHOKE do?

He throws a pass so bad that now Jones is DAMAGED GOODS.

CHOKE the DREAM KILLER :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:29 pm

@katherine

Thought you were going to stick around after the Packers thumping :)

You conveniently disappeared before the game was even over.

Go make some cookies because you are a coward and can’t handle what comes along with making STUPID predictions.

You and CHOKE SUCKKKKKKKKKKKKK :)

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:29 pm

CHOKE Why do stay on the Blog all day if you Hate Ryan so much? Why wouldn’t you do something that makes you happy and not just miserable?

tonyb

October 23rd, 2011
12:30 pm

Jeff, looks like we are a little beat up today with Baker and J. Jones out. I want to see about 35 rushes for Turner today. Keep that Lions offense on the sideline. As for Baker, with the way he is playing this year, not sure if Svitek is that big a drop off.

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:32 pm

Choke you big bad man picking on a Lady. You are truly pathetic.

Schultz you need to consider Banning CHOKE if he continues to Fight and call Kat names all day.

odius

October 23rd, 2011
12:33 pm

Let’s get the scrap around going birds

rob

October 23rd, 2011
12:33 pm

Jeff, I think if we can protect Matt today and get Turner and the screen gain going to take pressure off the rush, we will be ok. On a sepearated Atlanta sports note im stationed in Hawaii and Hawks players Joe Johnson, Al Horford, and Derrick Rose of the Bulls are a group of players scheduled to put on some shows for us troops out here. Good to see Atlanta players stepping out.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:34 pm

Have you guys noticed that Peyton II is ranked 22nd in the NFL in passing?

Yeah that’s a legend.

Listen up FOOLS, here is how you become a legend:

- Have your jersey in The Hall (Vick vs Redskins 2010)

- 1st Team to beat Green Bay in playoffs at Lambeau

- The Miracle at The Meadowlands Part II

- The overtime run vs Minnesota (2002)

- The 6 touchdowns vs Redskins in 2010 (Hall of Fame Jersey)

Being ranked NUMBER 22 in a league with a ton of rookie qbs is not elite :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:37 pm

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:32 pm
Choke you big bad man picking on a Lady. You are truly pathetic.

Schultz you need to consider Banning CHOKE if he continues to Fight and call Kat names all day.

__________________________________________________

BOO HOO HOO

Stop trying sucking up LOSER :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:38 pm

2004 & Counting :)

CHOKE is 27 going on 30.

Where are the playoff wins playa :)

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:38 pm

Choke you are saying MV7 is going in the Hall of Fame? damn you are drunk this early on a Sunday? You are too Stupid.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:40 pm

Maybe today we will get to see SUH eat a nice big serving of NOODLE ARMS :)

falconsrus

October 23rd, 2011
12:41 pm

please stop harshing our blog chick choke cherk

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:41 pm

Choke you just don’t like RYAN because he is white. You are now a SUH fan? You truly a pathetic person.

Matthew

October 23rd, 2011
12:42 pm

Jeff, how do you feel about the Falcons matchup with Suh and Fairley today? Is Fairley playing, or still injured? Thanks, enjoy reading your column!

Fred Macmurray

October 23rd, 2011
12:44 pm

Jeff will not ban Choke,, they’re buddies,,

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:47 pm

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:38 pm
Choke you are saying MV7 is going in the Hall of Fame? damn you are drunk this early on a Sunday? You are too Stupid.

_____________________________________________

Since you are obviously lacking a former college education I’ll speak to you in a less formal tone.

1. Yes Vick will be a Hall of Famer.

2. I was talking about the game vs The Redskins in 2010. Vick put on such a show that had NEVER been done before, the League placed Vick’s jersey in the Hall of Fame for that game.

What does CHOKE have in the Hall except ZERO Playoff wins :)

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:48 pm

If Choke want to pick fights with women he needs to go.

odius

October 23rd, 2011
12:48 pm

CHOKE = NO LIFE—glad to see you still got your head inserted in what I thought was a physically impossible thing to do, over Vicky no less.being shrill is self descriptive.

this is gonna be a fun few hours

rob

October 23rd, 2011
12:49 pm

Every one talks about Vicks 5 TD day against the Redskins. But Aaron Rodgers threw 4 TD and Rushed for 2 TD against Denver a few weeks ago. Vick will always be glorified and put on a pedestal even if others play as well or better than him. It is what it is. Matt Ryan is not a choker and we all know that

Jeff Schultz

October 23rd, 2011
12:49 pm

UOAD — I ban for profanity, not for obnoxiousness. Choke fits into the second category. But Choke: please don’t name call. Thanks.

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 23rd, 2011
12:49 pm

Who wants pie?

5150 UOAD

October 23rd, 2011
12:50 pm

MV7 will be in the HoF about the same time Our now President will be on a form of currency.

mountain_jim

October 23rd, 2011
12:50 pm

I am hoping Svitek plays well enough to win the starting job over the short-armed, over-drafted Baker.

And the Falcons can run well and throw deep and win this game.

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 23rd, 2011
12:51 pm

Olvie and Douglas keys to offense today.

Fred Macmurray

October 23rd, 2011
12:53 pm

Matt “Choke” Ryan = Captain Obvious,,, you need some new material dude,, you’re act is growing mold,,,,

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:53 pm

Okay we are conducting a poll:

Who wants me banned say “CHOKE” Sucks :)

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 23rd, 2011
12:54 pm

Baker’s arms remind me of the pirate on Family Guy.

But, the pirate has the advantage as he cannot hold.

Buzz Aldrin

October 23rd, 2011
12:55 pm

Put up or shut up time today. Wonder if the pregame fight is a sign of intensity or the team coming off the rails. Hope they can channel it into something productive.

Detroit Lions ain't shìt

October 23rd, 2011
12:55 pm

Win it, Birds, and maybe they’ll stop putting Lions fans in all the stupid commercials.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

October 23rd, 2011
12:56 pm

rob

October 23rd, 2011
12:49 pm
Every one talks about Vicks 5 TD day against the Redskins. But Aaron Rodgers threw 4 TD and Rushed for 2 TD

______________________________________

Don’t lie LOSER – Vick had 4 passing & 2 Rushing with a 150 qb rating, and in just 3 quarters :)

The Natue Boy

October 23rd, 2011
12:56 pm

I don’t see Atlanta being able to stop Stafford to Johnson….I think we’ll need a couple of turnovers to have a chance….

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 23rd, 2011
12:57 pm

Sam Rosen sporting a world championship comb-over.

Jeff Schultz

October 23rd, 2011
12:57 pm

Matthew — Nick Fairley is playing but not starting. Suh and Corey Williams are starting DTs. Suh’s a beast but Lions have been weak vs. run. Middle of Falcons’ OL better now that McClure is back at center.

jerry

October 23rd, 2011
12:57 pm

At least Stafford is not mobile.