Anwar Richardson: It starts with quarterback Matthew Stafford. As he completes his fourth NFL season, Stafford has thrown for 4,252 yards, which ranks fourth in the NFL. However, Stafford has thrown nearly as many touchdowns (17) as interceptions (15), plus has a 78.9 passer rating. He has struggled with consistency, and there is a lot of room for improvement. Detroit's defensive line has been unable to apply consistent pressure, and while teams must account for Ndamukong Suh, the Lions' defensive ends have struggled at times. Detroit did not defeat a team with a winning record last season, failed to add key components through free agency, and it shows this season.
RR: The Falcons are heading up to Ford Field coming off of their most complete game of the season – a 34-0 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. What are your thoughts on the Falcons and the season they have had?
AR: This is the season most NFL observers expected Atlanta to have at some point. The big question was 'when?' Mike Smith is arguably the NFL's most underrated coach — largely because he does not draw attention to himself — but deserves a lot of credit, along with his coaching staff.
RR: Let’s switch back to the NFC North. Give us your take on Green Bay and assess Chicago’s chances of making the playoffs during the final two weeks of the NFL regular season?
AR: Green Bay clinched they NFC North division title, so they're in the playoffs. Chicago is playing its worst football down the stretch, but honestly, the Seattle Seahawks — I know you wanted NFC North — has become a very dangerous team.
RR: In your opinion, who is the best team in the AFC and who is the best team in the NFC with two weeks to go?
AR: The Houston Texans have the best record, but the best team is New England. The Patriots know how to win big games. I wouldn't bet against them right now. I like Atlanta in the NFC. I know San Fransisco is a great team, but the Falcons play in a tough division. If Atlanta can obtain home field advantage throughout the playoffs, it might be time to crack out the "Dirty Bird" dance.
RR: Lions All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson is widely regarded as the best receiver in pro football. Does he have a legitimate shot of eclipsing Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yardage record?
AR: Yes, yes, yes. Johnson is a phenomenal athlete, and is the best receiver in football. He is double-teamed, but still catches the ball in traffic. He's just a freak. And though this should not matter, Johnson is actually a great person on-and-off-the-field. Sometimes it is nice to see good things happen to good people.
RR: Who will get your vote for rookie of the year in 2012 –Washington QB Robert Griffin III, Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck, or Seattle QB Russell Wilson?
AR: Andrew Luck has my vote. I like RGIII, and Wilson is impressive, but think about Luck. Here is a guy who inherited Peyton Manning's team. He had to fill the shoes of a future Hall of Famer. Luck inherited a 2-14 team. He had a new coaching staff, and his head coach was diagnosed with leukemia. Not only did Luck hold this team together, he may lead Indianapolis to the playoffs. There is no debate in my mind.RR: Give us your thoughts on who wins Saturday’s game between the Lions and the Falcons and give us a score.
AR: If Atlanta takes Detroit seriously, they should win this game. The Falcons need to grab an early lead and force Stafford to beat them — which he can. The Falcons cannot stop Calvin Johnson, but if they stop Detroit's other offensive players, there will be a party in Buckhead. Atlanta 35, Detroit 24