The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Atlanta.
The Falcons went to Detroit on Saturday night and did what they needed to do, out-playing an out-classed Lions team and winning 31-18 to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage through the NFC Championship Game. The Falcons can now, if they so choose, rest some key players in next week’s finale. They have nothing more to play for in the regular season.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a huge day, completing 25 of 32 passes for 279 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Two of those touchdowns went to Roddy White, who also had a huge game, with 153 yards on eight catches. The porous Detroit secondary had no answer for the Ryan-to-White combination.
The best player on the field, however, was Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who had 11 catches for 225 yards and broke two records on Saturday night: Most receiving yards in a season and most consecutive 100-yard games.
But football is a team game, and Megatron can’t do it all by himself. The Lions have major flaws on defense and special teams, and a lack of offensive playmakers other than Johnson. The Falcons, however, are looking like a complete team, and like a team that’s peaking at the right time late in the season. Now the Falcons have one meaningless Week 17 game and one off week during the wild-card round, before they host a divisional round game three weeks from now. And we’ll see if Atlanta can maintain this momentum into the playoffs.