The Detroit Lions (7-4) are finally comfortably in first place of the NFC North. They can’t get too comfortable though as there are five games left to play for Detroit with three away games and two divisional home games. Detroit starts on the road facing the surging New Orleans Saints (5-6).
Detroit Passing Game
Stafford is still having a great year with a 99.3 QB rating with 19 TDs and 5 interceptions. Stafford has been an extremely clutch player this year, especially late in games in the 4th Quarter. Detroit always has a chance to win with Stafford at the helm. The Lions will need a big game from Stafford to keep up with Saints the Superdome. This game has shootout written all over it. The Lions and Stafford have beaten the Saints twice in a row and will look to make it a third on Sunday.
The Saints allow 27.9 PPG which is 30th in the league. Detroit should be able to score plenty of points with a big passing day. New Orleans allows a 93.9 QB rating with 68% completion 17 TDs and 7 interceptions. Detroit should have passing success. New Orleans allows 40.4% 3rd down conversions for 19th in the league.
Marvin Jones woke up on Thanksgiving and made some first down catches in Week 12 despite four non-productive weeks in a row prior to the game. Jones still has 730 yards and 4 TDs on the season. Golden Tate has 617 yards and 2 TDS. Eric Ebron produced 451 yards and 1 TD despite missing 3 games. The ageless wonder Anquan Boldin continues to have a clutch year despite being 36 years old. Boldin has 392 yards and 6 TDs on the season. Finally, Theo Riddick notched 356 yards and 4 TDs in 9 games of action. Detroit has five weapons to take apart the Saints defense.
New Orleans doesn’t bring much consistent pressure but Cameron Jordan is a nice pass rusher (5 sacks). Nick Fairley is a former Lion who will want to feast on them. Fairley has 4.5 sacks and provides interior pass rush. Rookie Sheldon Rankins is back from injury and has talent. Paul Kruger was added after the Browns cut him and offers some talent. Detroit has protected Stafford well and should keep Stafford clean in this game. The noise of the Superdome could be a factor though.
Detroit Rushing Attack
Detroit has been poor with only 3.7 YPC. Rookie Dwayne Washington has struggled along with Zach Zenner. Theo Riddick has been solid with 4.0 YPC on 88 carries in 9 games. Detroit will need more from Riddick and Washington in this game to have the offense keep pace with the Saints. The Saints allow only 3.9 YPC so Detroit might have trouble running the ball unless the blocking improves.
New Orleans Passing Attack
Drew Brees is having another phenomenal year. The Saints are second in scoring over 30 PPG. Brees has a 109.1 QB rating, 71.5% completion percentage, 30 TDs and 8 interceptions in 11 games. 30 TDS in 11 games is incredible.
Michael Thomas leads the way with 789 yards and 7 TDS. Brandin Cooks out of the slot has 736 yards and 6 TDs. Willie Snead notched 593 yards and 4 TDS. Coby Fleener added 461 yards and 3 TDs at tight end. Mark Ingram is a sneaky RB receiver with 248 yards and 4 TDs. The Saints are loaded with weapons too just like Detroit. The Lions allow a league worst 106 QB rating. The rating has improved over the last five weeks for Detroit but Brees should have a big day unless Detroit gets a lot of pressure.
Detroit is 15th in the league in PPG allowed at 22.6 but must step up in this game. Detroit held two top 10 offenses at bay in Washington and Tennessee. Both those games were at Ford Field. The Saints in the Dome are a whole other animal. Detroit can’t play defense like they did against the Colts, Rams or Packers or it will be a long day. They must keep Brees limited just enough. The Lions must find a pass rush in this game to limit Brees. Hyder has been solid and Ansah showed signs of life. Terron Armstead has a knee injury and may not play. This could make life easier for Ansah and company.
New Orleans Rushing Attack
Mark Ingram is having another big year with 5.3 YPC, 721 yards and 3 TDs. Tim Hightower has a solid 4.0 YPC on 103 carries. The Saints can run the ball well which adds to their offense. Ingram has a toe injury and his status should be monitored for this game. It would be a blow for the Saints if he can’t play.
Detroit allows 4.2 YPC and must step up their run defense if they want to stop the Saints from moving down the field at will on them.
The key to the game will be Detroit’s pass rush and run defense. If Detroit can limit the Saints enough and put pressure on Brees, Detroit should be able to score enough points to win a shootout. If Ingram runs wild and Brees is well protected, the Saints can score 40 and win the game. Detroit’s defense has been good the last five weeks. Time for Detroit to step up against the 2nd ranked offense. Detroit’s offense must maintain at least four or five long drives to keep the ball out of Brees’ hands. Detroit wins the game in shootout on the back of one clutch timely turnover.
Lions 35 Saints 31