New Orleans Saints vs Detroit Lions — Gus Kattengell’s Preview
The New Orleans Saints have been a good team coming off of bye weeks. 5-0 the last few times to be exact and the Saints will need that magic to continue as they begin a tough stretch of games.
I call it the gauntlet of the season. Four games that directly can impact whether or not the rest of the season will matter. Sure there is plenty of football left to be played but the Saints if the season ended today are 11th in the standings. A quick glance will tell you that essentially the Saints must win the NFC South to get into post-season play. Granted the Black and Gold can go on a win streak as they’ve proven in the past but realistically looking at how they’ve played this season that could be a reach.
Detroit is up first, followed by Green Bay in a Sunday night game. Carolina is next on a short week on a Thursday night game on the road and then San Francisco comes to the Dome. All four teams have more wins than New Orleans with the Panthers sitting atop of the division. The Saints can place themselves in a good spot by beating these teams and holding a tiebreaker in the head to head position if records wind up being equal at season’s end.
It won’t be easy as the Saints will face a pair of high-powered offenses first then face three of the best defenses in the NFL during that stretch.
The Lions are 4-2 and coming off of a 17-3 win at Minnesota. WR Calvin Johnson is dealing with a high ankle sprain and hasn’t practiced all week. Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said earlier this week that they likely wouldn’t play Megatron until Week 10 the week following the Lions bye week. RB Reggie Bush missed Sunday’s game against the Vikings with an ankle injury but after the game said he was 100% playing against the Saints and he’s been limited at practice all week.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Once again I start with talk about defense but unlike past weeks where I’ve talked about the Saints defense this week it’s the Lions defense.
Detroit’s defense is the real deal. The Lions are first in the NFL against the pass keeping offense to 197.2 yards and second in the league against the run keeping teams to just 73.5 yards per game. The Lions are also first in points allowing just 13.7 and are fist in sacks with 20 and just for good measure how about this nugget where the Lions have sacked, hit or hurried opposing quarterbacks on one out of every 2.13 pass drop backs.
There has been one really bad constant in the last several roads games for the Saints and I’m not referring to them losing. Turnovers. They seem to not only happen but they are ugly. Yes I’m talking to you Drew Brees. A pick at Atlanta in the redzone (the team had two), a pick-six at Cleveland (the team had two), and a pick at Dallas where the team had three overall for a total of seven turnovers on the road this season. It’s simple. If the Saints turn the ball over on Sunday they will lose.
THE GRAHAM IMPACT
Saints TE Jimmy Graham is suffering from a shoulder sprain that occurred against Tampa Bay. Yes, he was listed as limited on Thursday but I highly doubt he will play. So the Lions have one less weapon to worry about. This is good and bad. The bad of course is that the Lions can attack more and not really worry about what Graham brings over the middle. The good is that it likely will force the receivers to finally step up. I’d like to see Brees get back to spreading the football around and getting Kenny Stills involved who’s been basically absent this season with just 10 receptions for 141 yards. Marques Colston has 15 catches for 248 yards. Robert Meachem has just four catches for 60 yards. Colston is the only one of this bunch with a single touchdown. Rookie Brandin Cooks has 32 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown. 2 TDs from the WRs is far too little and they need to get back into the game plan.
Detroit’s offense is the Saints offense. Joe Lombardi is their offensive coordinator after spending time as the Saints quarterbacks coach and has brought the Saints playbook with them. You’ll see multiple formations and lots of passing even inside the redzone. The Saints defense must tackle and prevent small plays from becoming big ones. Pressure is understood of course and this would be as good a time as any for DE Cam Jordan to have the type of game we’ve been waiting for all season as he has only one sack all season.
I really want to say the Saints will win this game. There simply is too much I’ve seen this season that tells me they won’t. Inconsistency on offense isn’t good when facing a team that is first and second in stopping the run and pass. Defensively I have a hard time believing that a team where QBs Brian Hoyer and Mike Glennon had success can all of a sudden keep Matt Stafford from having a good afternoon. Lions win 34-17.