Sep. 19, 2017
Falcons vs. Lions: Nothing to "Gain," Everything to "Lose"
2 of the three 2-0 teams in the NFC are going to play this weekend in what seems to be the game of the week as it is the only two 2-0 teams playing each other.
Not the Patriots vs. Raiders. Not the Broncos vs. Steelers. Not the Cowboys vs. Packers. But the Atlanta Falcons vs. the Detroit Lions.
Yep. You heard me. Falcons vs. Lions.
Yes, I know it is early. But honestly, name two teams that have gotten off to a better start than the Falcons and Lions in the NFC. Panthers are 2-0 as well, but have struggled just to beat Buffalo and the Bucs had one game to this point.
If we talk about teams that have had great futility in the Super Bowl era, we do mention the Browns, Jets, and to a lesser extent the Jaguars. But for the longest time, the Falcons and Lions had been running jokes of the NFL for a good while. The Falcons struggled in really their first 3 decades of existence. Yes, they had moments of greatness, but were very brief prior to 2008. The Lions had been joked as "Rebuilding since 1957." And we know about Detroit's woes in 2008 when they went 0-16 and then followed by a 2-14 record in 2009.
But for really the last 6 years, the Falcons and Lions have been far better than what we have remembered. Yeah, they still have a hiccup on a season or two (2012 for Detroit, 2013 for Atlanta), but for the most part both teams have been at the very worst competitive. The Lions have made the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years while the Falcons went to the Super Bowl last year.
But because on a national scale, it is "yeah, but they're the Falcons and Lions."
Of course on a local level (and I guess it is like this everywhere in the NFL) in Atlanta and Detroit is that there is Hope Springs Eternal for the football teams. The Falcons are coming off a Super Bowl, opening the gorgeous Mercedes Benz Stadium and have talent for many to think they could get back to the Super Bowl with ease. The Lions continue to make strides, especially on defense and a new commitment to the run while that has gotten to Motor City faithful believing in something that hasn't really been felt since the days of Barry Sanders & Herman Moore. What also helps get the cities abuzz is the fact they really are the only show in town worth mentioning. The Braves are down and the Hawks are going to be down from all likelihoods while the Lions are really the only team with any hopes of postseason in Detroit (as the Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons are all down). But I think both Atlanta and Detroit have LEGIT reasons of why 2017 may be a special year for their teams.
As we are seeing right now, the NFC looks VERY thin in terms of powerhouses. Nobody is incredibly scary in the NFC East (as the Lions have proved on Monday night against the Giants and then the Cowboys are getting exposed while nothing seems impressive with Washington or Philly). Green Bay has shown that they can't keep healthy and their defense is a joke. Seattle has shown their offense is a joke. And we really can't factor the Rams, Cardinals, 49ers, Saints, and Bears to this point as they either are a giant mess or the slates are practically wiped. So that leaves Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. Minnesota you always wonder if there is enough offense to go around regardless of the quarterback, but is always a thorn. Carolina is 2-0, but the wins were to the 49ers and Bills, two teams not expected to be competitive and if not for a dropped pass late, Carolina is 1-1 themselves. So it comes to a team that has given both the Falcons and Lions historically nightmares: the Buccaneers. But what kind of team do they have as they are an unknown to this point. So, the hope that Atlanta and Detroit has, is legit.
I'm not saying Sunday this is an NFC Championship preview as it is a long ways away. But right now you have to think these two teams are the most balanced teams in the NFC (again, we don't know about Tampa Bay)-at least so far. The questions are can both teams remain healthy, can both young and fast defenses keep up what they've done so far, can Detroit's running game get better, and can Atlanta utilize all their weapons like they did in January and so far this year? But those are questions that most fans of these teams believe are a yes.
But the issue is, outside of Atlanta and Detroit, is that they are the Falcons and Lions. If Atlanta wins, the Falcons were EXPECTED to win because they are the defending NFC Champions and they are the de facto leaders of the conference as we speak. If Detroit wins, the Lions are EXPECTED to win because they are at home. If Atlanta loses, the storyline will be "well, they aren't that great of a team and cannot beat some of the better teams away from home" and if Detroit loses "they are not there as a franchise and will never get there under Matthew Stafford."
And that is unfortunate regardless.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat