Before the year, a matchup between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints, even at Ford Field, was not encouraging for the Lions. The Saints were expected to be very good, some even made the decision to predict them to make it to the Super Bowl. At the very least, this was expected to be a shootout between a couple of potent offenses. Well, now that games have actually been played, the picture has changed.
Neither of these teams have been as good on offense as expected. Matthew Stafford has had one big game, but that’s about it. Calvin Johnson may or may not play. The Detroit offensive line has had problems, and Stafford has been sacked almost as many times this season as he was all of last season. Meanwhile, the Saints haven’t quite been as good as expected on offense. Now, in terms of raw numbers, they have been putting those up, and I am not saying they haven’t been good. They just haven’t been great. Drew Brees has not been his usual self, especially on the road. Most notably, Jimmy Graham may not play. He’s the best tight end in the NFL, and if the Saints don’t have him, it will really hurt their offense. They do get Mark Ingram back, but that may not make a difference.
That’s because of defense. Here, the Lions have been much better than expected, probably the best in the league so far. On the other hand, the Saints have been worse than expected. They’ve been straight bad, probably the worst in the league so far. This would clearly indicate a matchup advantage for the Lions, especially if Graham can’t play. New Orleans has not been a juggernaut on offense, and maybe Detroit will get after Brees like they did Teddy Bridgewater. Well, probably not to that level, because that was a catastrophe for the Vikings, but, you know, Detroit could do pretty well nevertheless. On the flip side, if Stafford is going to get it going this year, it will be this week. The Saints have a bad secondary, especially without Jarius Byrd. Even if Megatron doesn’t play, guys like Golden Tate should be enough. Reggie Bush is back too, and he and Joique Bell will help in the passing game, and also the running game.
Of course, there is that one looming specter still hanging over this Lions team. That would be the kicking game. Matt Prater made a field goal last week, but he missed two. Eventually, this is going to stop. All math and logic and reason says that Detroit’s kickers won’t keep missing so many kicks. Prater will be kicking indoors at home. That can only help. Am I concerned? Yes. Do I consider it a given that Prater will miss a million field goals? No. In fact, he should make more than he misses. One can only hope.
Before the year, I most definitely would have taken the Saints here. However, I have the facts and I’m voting Lions now. Their defense seems legit, and it doesn’t seem like Graham will play. It also doesn’t seem like Johnson will play, but the Lions should overcome that against this defense. Detroit heads to London next week. I think they go there with a win. Final Prediction: Lions 35, Saints 24