New Orleans Saints Versus Detroit Lions
The New Orleans Saints will look to build off of their win against the Buccaneers last week when they take on the Detroit Lions in the Superdome on Monday night. The defense saw significant improvement last week; and, if they wish to win on Monday, they’ll need to continue to improve. Both teams have struggled mightily this year. The Saints are sitting at 5-8, and the Lions are currently at 4-9. Despite the fact that this game might not be the optimal game for ESPN, I am sure excited to watch as this one could turn into a shootout.
The Saints defense will get a unique challenge on Monday. The Lions offense only ranks 22nd in total offensive yards according to ESPN, but they have numerous weapons at their disposal. Calvin Johnson Jr. and Golden Tate are a very talented duo of wide receivers. Theo Riddick, a running back for the Lions, is an excellent pass-catcher as he has tallied 578 receiving yards.
Delvin Breaux and Brandon Browner will have their work cut out for them. Breaux has played at an exceptionally high level this year, and Brandon Browner has certainly struggled. It is very possible that Dennis Allen will match Brandon Browner up with Calvin Johnson (Megatron). This pairing would make sense as Johnson measures up at 6’5″ and Browner at 6’4″. Regardless of who Dennis Allen puts Breaux up against, I expect him to play well. Nick Underhill of The New Orleans Advocate has “Breaux at 16 targets, five receptions, and 33 yards” over the past 5 games.
Matthew Stafford has been sacked 35 times thus far. Dennis Allen will need to put pressure on Stafford, and I definitely expect him to do so. It is evident that Allen is a fan of disguising packages and bringing the blitz. Cameron Jordan and Hau’oli Kikaha will need to get to the quarterback early on in the game. As long as Stafford is uncomfortable and confused, I don’t expect him to take as many shots down the field. The defense did a good job of limiting the big plays last week, and the Saints will need them to show up again.
The Saints offense needs to make plays from the very beginning. Brandin Cooks was very quiet last game; he was held to 3 receptions for 29 yards. I would not expect a performance like this again. Willie Snead had a tremendous performance last game as get brought in 7 receptions for 122 yards. I expect these two to be used often. I think it is important that the offense hits on a big play early to get the crowd into the game. Benjamin Watson continues his career-year, and he will likely be heavily used on Monday night.
Tim Hightower will be asked to pound the rock I’d assume. Prior to last Sunday’s game, there was a great deal of speculation as to who would be the lead back for the Saints. Some expected a committee, but Tim Hightower emerged as the candidate for the lead running back spot. He ran for 85 yards on 28 carries; this resulted in an average of three yards a carry. Three yards a carry is certainly not an outrageous or eye-popping number, but Hightower was able to get the job done. (And three yards a carry will move the chains and keep down and distance manageable). I applaud the work he put in, and I couldn’t be happier to see him back in the NFL after a hard-fought recovery. I’d expect Hightower to a get a majority of the carries once again.
Penalties, or a lack thereof, should be the main priority for the Saints. The Saints defense in particular has simply been penalized too much. Whether it be Brandon Browner holding, Kenny Vaccarro getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct (Vaccarro was not fined and the call was very iffy), or Kyle Wilson acting out–the Saints put themselves in bad situations. It would be easy to say that the Buccaneers were given a touchdown as a result of bad penalties. Penalties are a part of the game, but the players need to stop dumb, selfish penalties.
The injury report is looking good for the Saints as every player who was limited or missed practice anytime throughout the week was listed as probable. Hopefully Dannell Ellerbe can stay healthy throughout the full duration of the game once again as he could play a major role in covering running backs out of the backfield.
I expect the Saints to win this game as long as they generate a sufficient pass rush, minimize penalties, and keep the ball in their hands. Turnovers could be a deciding factor in this game. I believe both teams are relatively close when it comes to skill and ability at this point. The Saints are a paltry 3-point favorite in Vegas betting. I’m going to take the Saints in this one 34-24. I was encouraged by their defensive performance last week, and I expect Drew Brees to have a big game. The Saints are 2-0 in primetime night games this year, and they “have won 16 of their past 17” in primetime.
The Saints will come out ready to play, and I expect a fun game. Go Saints! WHO DAT!!!