Final stretch will prove is Saints are a post-season team

It is right there in front of them. It being a spot in the post season and to earn that the Saints have to likely win four of the last five games remaining, a feat that won’t be easy but can be accomplished.

The Saints play Tampa Bay twice, Arizona and Atlanta to close out the season. So three division games and a team that is 4-6 struggling in the Cardinals, all games where stepping onto the field the Saints have a winnable chance. The Saints are currently 9th in the playoff standing behind Minnesota (6-6), Tampa Bay (6-5), and Washington (6-4-1) who’s in the sixth spot. There is only one spot open realistically as the Giants are 8-3 and keepers of the fifth spot trailing first place Dallas (11-1) in the NFC East.

New Orleans enters the game 5-6 and for the second time this season are looking to reach the .500 mark. A week ago the Saints offense put up 555 yards and scored 49 points in a game that clearly seemed to be a grudge match between Saints head coach Sean Payton and Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The defense gave up 21 points in the first half but shut out L.A. in the second half as they continue to show improvement.

Detroit is 7-4 on the season and coming off of 16-13 win back on Thanksgiving over Minnesota, the second win over the Viking in three weeks. QB Matt Stafford has been the talk of the league for his ability to lead seven comeback wins this seasons in either the fourth quarter or overtime. Minnesota lost Thursday to Dallas and is now 6-6 so a win by Detroit would essentially give them a three game lead with four games to play.

The Saints and Lions series history is dead even with each team winning 11 games and losing 11 games. There was one tie in the series that took place in the series first meeting, a 20-20 tie on November 24, 1968. The 13 contests have been decided by 8 points or less. The Saints are 9-3 against the Lions at home in Crescent City.

This will be the sixth meeting overall for Saints head coach Sean Payton as he saw his Saints win the first four but drop the last two including last season’s meeting where the Saints faced an early 24-point deficit and couldn’t over come it in a 35-27 loss.

New Orleans as of Friday is a 6.0 point favorite.

STORYLINES

Cooks ran his mouth this week about being frustrated last Sunday. While the Saints offense put up 555 yards and 49 points in the win, Cooks went with out a target. No catches much less an attempt prompted the third year receiver to post on social media that he was frustrated and in doing so created a storyline this week

BY THE NUMBERS

The Saints offense comes into the game ranked 1st overall in total offense averaging 434.1 yards a game. New Orleans is 1st in passing averaging 319.5 yards per game and 9th in rushing at 114.6 yards per game. Detroit is the 26th ranked offense with 329.5 yards per game. The Lions are 17th in passing with 248.7 17th yards a game and 30th in rushing with 80.8 yards on the ground.

Defensively the Saints are 26th up from 28th of a week ago in total defense giving up 370.5 yards a game, 27th in pass defense giving up 271.4 and up to 12th in yards allowed on the ground at 99/1. Detroit is 14th in yards allowed giving up 353.5 yards per game. The Lions are 14th in passing defense giving up 250.9 and 16th in rush defense allowing 102.5.

ESPN’s Week 13 Power Rankings have the Detroit Lions at number 7 up three spots from last week. The site poses the question as to who is more valuable to the team. QB Matt Stafford who has led the team to seven game winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime this season. Perhaps its kicker Matt Prater who has never missed a game tying or go ahead field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career. Prater is a perfect 25 of 25 in the fourth and 6 for 6 in overtimes. The Black and Gold are 21 in the rankings up two from last week.

Saints QB Drew Brees has thrown 30 TD passes this season and it marks the ninth time in his career that he has thrown for at least 30 scores tying him with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for the most seasons with at least 30 TDs.

The Saints have been penalized 66 times for 607 yards. Detroit has been flagged 75 times for 660 yards.

HOW THE SOUTH IS WON

Atlanta            7-4      vs        Kansas City              8-3      +5.0

Tampa Bay     6-5      @        San Diego                 5-6      -4.0

New Orleans 5-6      vs        Detroit                        7-4      +4.5

Carolina          4-7      @        Seattle                       7-3-1  +3.0

PLAYER(S) THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON OFFENSE

RB Tim Hightower. RB Mark Ingram was named NFC Offensive player of the week following his performance last week but didn’t practice this week much due to a toe injury. The Saints have to continue to run the football and be balanced. It helps the defense and puts opposing defenses in a tough spot. If Ingram is hampered or can’t play Hightower has shown he can shoulder the load.

PLAYER(S) THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON DEFENSE

Saints D-Line. The Lions are ranked 30th at running the football and so they’ll likely be depending on Stafford. Stafford has been good so far this season leading seven comebacks but the Saints defense has been hitting the quarterback, creating turnovers and especially at home as of late they’ve done well. Make Stafford uncomfortable and the game could be a blowout.

X FACTORS

CB Delvin Breaux. Breaux is getting closer to being the cornerback we saw last season become the team’s shut down corner. You can’t miss the first half of the season and have it not effect you. You are seeing more and more of his play making ability recently thought and the Lions have trouble running the football and move the ball through the air. This could be the week Breaux picks up his first interception of the season.

K Will Lutz. Simply put the Lions kicker Matt Prater is clutch and the Saints kicker well, makes you watch with one closed.

HOW I SEE IT

The Saints have shown that it’s pretty simple for them. If the team turns the ball over and shoots themselves in the foot with poor special teams play then they’ll likely lose. Even with the NFL’s top offense, overcoming such mistakes has proven to be tough. Still with those mistakes they could have won games against good defense

I credit Detroit for doing what matters at the end of the day and that is winning. The Lions have found a way to win. That said Minnesota, Houston, Jacksonville, Washington, L.A., Chicago, aren’t exactly top notch offenses. Stafford has thrown 704 yards less than Brees and the Lions can’t really run the football.

New Orleans just needs to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Score. Score often and I don’t see the Lions being able to keep up.

Saints win 31-23.

 

***Hear the game on 97.3 The Dawg. Pre-game starts at 10am and kickoff at noon.***