The Falcons are taking on the Lions, shortly, on Saturday Night Football. The Lions present some unique matchup problems for the Falcons, and here are the three most important ones:
Atlanta Interior Offensive line vs. Detroit defensive tackles Nick Fairley & Ndamukong Suh: The Falcons offensive tackles have been very good so far in the 2012 season, but the unit that has struggled is the interior of that line. Justin Blalock has been the best and most consistent of the inside three, but center Todd McClure is really showing his age. Rookie right guard Peter Konz has been a massive improvement over Garrett Reynolds, but there is still much for the first year player to learn. Here’s the thing: these three will be facing two of the best, fastest, and most physical defensive tackles in the entire NFL. Suh, is a monster in his own right whether it be getting after the quarterback and stopping the run, but when teamed up with Fairley, they can really bowl through offensive lines, get to the QB and disrupt offenses. If the Falcons want to be effective offensively, they much protect Ryan in the pocket.
Atlanta linebackers vs. Detroit TE Brandon Pettigrew: The lost man in the Lions passing attack, Pettigrew is the second leading receiver for Detroit in terms of catches, targets, and yards. Calvin Johnson is a beast, and the Falcons will absolutely find ways to try to double cover him, but the real wildcard is Pettigrew. If Sean Weatherspoon and/or Stephen Nicholas can contain him, keep him from consistently moving the chains, and prevent him getting open in the redzone/endzone, they will go a long way to stopping the Lions #1 ranked passing attack.
Atlanta DEs John Abraham & Kroy Biermann vs. Detroit OTs Jeff Backus & Gosder Cherilus: If the Falcons are truly committed to preventing Calvin Johnson shredding their secondary, they must commit to making Matthew Stafford get rid of the ball quickly. That responsibility will fall primarily on Atlanta’s defensive ends. Backus is clearly nearing the end of what has been a very good career, and could fall victim to a steady dose of John Abraham. However, Cherilus has given up 5 sacks, and been flagged twice for holding and 5 times for false start in 2012. If Abraham is on that side, there’s a good chance Cherilus will get anxious, or that he will get beaten by Honest Abe. It is also very important that Biermann do a good job wherever he is matched up, so that he either wins 1-on-1 situations, or commands double teams.