Approaching this game I find myself conflicted. The Lions just won a game, and now have the same record as the New Orleans Saints, who've lost their last 2. The Saints are banged up, the Lions were but are now healthy again. This is a game that preseason I gave the Lions no chance for, predicted a 12 point win for New Orleans, but that has dated quickly! Now, I think it's really really close....
At the time of writing, the Saints are 3 point favourites on the spread, and are 8/13 on the ML. The O/U is at 54.5 points reflecting the high number of points against these two defenses.
S C.J. Moore
That's a long list. Trufant looks like's he's going to play which is a big result for Detroit, but the appearance of Roberts and Jones is unfortunate. Jones hit the injury report on Friday and mid-week injuries are far harder to overcome so I won't be surprised if he misses out - who was the Lions starting WILL linebacker against Cardinals and played well. Roberts has been the starting nickel corner since Coleman went on IR and the depth there is very thin - neither Trufant, Okudah or Oruwariye really play there, which could leave it to Tony McRae.
For the Saints, all the players who are out are starters. That leaves the secondary very thin at corner, it's taken away their two biggest offensive threats outside of Kamar, our offense should have a day on Sunday!
Drew Brees' arm issues are well documented. The fact that there's no Michael Thomas, possibly the best WR in the league, and Jared Cook, should hamper the Saints' offense considerably. The key man is clearly Alvin Kamara, who is 5th in receiving yards in the league, the top RB in that category, as well as the YAC leader by some margin. We must plug him up. One of the ways that we can do that is to scheme for the fact that Brees struggles to throw the ball downfield. We must play both safeties quite shallow, stack the box, play zone corners to ensure that screens and swing passes are seized upon quickly. If we can do that, and force Brees to throw, we may have a chance of making a couple of interceptions.
The key stat for me is the Lions red zone offense vs the Saints red zone defense. Both have been almost equally poor, with the Lions 27th in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on just 46.2% of possessions in the red-zone, we were at 59.5% last year. The Saints are joint 30th in red-zone defense at 83.33% of possessions resulting in touchdowns. We must, must come away with big scores when we get the chance.
The other stat that jumps out to me is New Orleans struggles with flags. They are dead last in the NFL with 110.3 yards per game given up in penalties on average through week 3. These are not only regular holding or false-start penalties but big-time pass interference calls in clutch moments resulting in scores. We must give New Orleans the chance to hang themselves by throwing the ball to Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, especially given the injuries to the corners.
How's it going to go?
If you look at the two teams, on paper the offenses rank similarly but the Saints defense is better. If you look at how they're actually performing, Detroit is a team on the rise, whereas New Orleans is going to be desperate. I think that the matchup is favourable for the Lions on both sides of the ball, and even if the offense doesn't fire every time, we have the best punter in the league to pin them back deep every possession.
Prediction: Saints 31 Lions 33
How do you see it going? Let us know in the comments or contact us on Twitter.
If you'd like to hear a discussion on the game, I talk with other ROTL members Aaron and Antony on our most recent episode here.