Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions: Stage Is Set for Upset

James BrownSenior Analyst IDecember 18, 2012

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 30:  Wide receiver Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions makes a reception on his way to scoring a 56-yard touchdown during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 30, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Lions defeated the Broncos 45-10. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons are off their biggest win of the season.

The Falcons demolished the New York Giants and sent a message to the rest of the NFL that they should be considered serious Super Bowl contenders. This week, a special Saturday NFL game televised on ESPN will be their next challenge as they face off against the Detroit Lions.

Meanwhile, the Lions were shell-shocked in Arizona and sent a message to the NFL that they are looking forward to the NFL draft. The Lions look like easy prey for the birds, but the football odds suggest the game will be closer than most would believe.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions Odds: Because of the results from Week 15, it was a bit surprising to see the NFL Odds open up with the Falcons as just (-3) point favorites. This opening number seemed a bit low for a team that has the best record in football and the betting public agreed.

The public quickly jumped on that number and pushed it up to (-4) at several outlets, as the latest consensus reports show that 78 percent of the public is with the Birds.

Can you blame them?

After all, the Falcons are Super Bowl contenders and arguably one of the best teams in football. The Lions look like they have no direction or discipline and there are no signs indicating that they will be up for this challenge. However, if you dig a bit deeper, you will see a few reasons why the stage is set for an upset on Saturday Night Football.

The Lions were embarrassed a week ago and teams usually answer the call after an unexpected beatdown. Their previous loss becomes magnified with this upcoming prime-time game, and they'll be eager to redeem themselves in front of a national TV audience. That alone is a reason to get motivated for this game, but for Lion’s wide receiver Calvin Johnson, there's a much bigger reason. 

Johnson is just 182 yards away from breaking Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season, which has given the team motivation to play out the string (Associated Press via Mercury News):

We have to hang our hat on something this year," Lions center Dominic Raiola said. "I think it would be awesome for him to do it. I'd love to be able to say I was on the team and helped him do it."

Johnson can flourish against a Falcons team that has struggled against opponents that they are expected to beat.

The Falcons may have a stunning 12-2 record on the season, but many of their victories have been less than stellar. They have won seven games by eight points or less, and that includes games against league doormats such as the Raiders, Eagles and Cardinals. The close victories against the Raiders and the Cardinals were at home, which means they Falcons can easily play down to their opposition.

The Lions will need a big game from quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford was dreadful in the game against Arizona, but should perform much better against the Falcons. The Lions should also establish the run against a Falcons defense that ranks 30th in the league allowing 4.9 yards per carry. With an effective run game, the Lions will give Stafford time in the pocket to pick apart the Falcons secondary.

According to the NFL sports betting trends, the Falcons are in a tough spot for Saturday's night showdown. They produced an impressive defensive effort in the blowout against the Giants and repeating that effort will not be easy to accomplish.

The Falcons are 0-7 against the spread (ATS) in their last seven games after allowing less than 15 points in their previous game and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games following a win of more than 14 points.

These games have a history of producing close finishes, and as a result, the underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings. Considering all of the possible picks against the spread for Week 16, the Lions are a solid bet. Detroit may be out of the playoffs, but the stage is set for a monumental upset on the Saturday night stage.

Atlanta Falcons vs Detroit Lions Predictions: Lions +4

James Brown is a B/R featured columnist and can be followed on Twitter. Feel free to contact James at He also is a contributor at Bookie Blitz, a sports picks website.