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Falcons Schedule 2011: Traveling To Detroit To Face Stafford, Upstart Lions

If you've been following these previews up to this point, or at the very least taken a quick look at the schedule, you'll realize that the Falcons really have a tough first half of the schedule. The Lions, while they may not be an elite team just yet, were still much better than their record indicated last season. With an overtime loss to the Jets, a three-point loss to the Eagles, a two-point loss to the Packers, the Lions could've easily finished 2010 with a winning record.

This year, the Lions will look to build off their late season success, having won the last four games on last year's schedule. Injuries always seem to be a problem for Detroit, especially for QB and UGA-alum Matt Stafford, but if the Lions stay in one piece this could easily become a tough game for the Falcons.

Record: Finished 6-10 last season under Jim Schwartz
Last Meeting: 2008, Week 1 (Falcons won 34-21)
Notable Additions: LB Stephen Tulloch, LB Justin Durant, S Erik Coleman, CB Eric Wright, RB Jerome Harrison, DT Nick Fairley (draft pick)
Notable Losses: QB Drew Stanton

If you recall, the last time these two teams met was the 2008 season opener. Matt Ryan threw a TD on his first pass attempt, Turner broke loose for 200+ yards and all of a sudden the massive pain that was the 2007 season suddenly didn't seem so bad. For the Lions, it was the first of many losses on route to an historic 0-16 season.

Still, this Lions team is much improved from the franchises darkest days. They have a good QB in Stafford, a fantastic receiver in Calvin Johnson, and a more-than-capable supporting cast. The offense was above average last year (No. 15 in scoring) while the defense was more or less mediocre (No. 21 in the NFL).

For the Falcons, this game should be won because of a few favorable matchups. One is Detroit's offensive line, which has notoriously been pretty terrible throughout the decade. If they can't protect Stafford from Abraham, the offense has no chance of keeping pace with the Falcons in this game.

The other big matchup is Detroit's secondary. Former Falcon Chris Houston, famous for making fans scream "turn your head around!" while in Atlanta, is probably the best cornerback on their roster. Roddy White is going to have a field day. If all goes well, the Falcons will go into their bye week with a win and momentum to finish strong in the second half.

For complete game coverage, stay tuned to SB Nation Atlanta.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For more on the Lions, check out Pride Of Detroit.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.