Detroit Lions (7-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-6)
1 PM Eastern Standard Time
Mercedes – Benz Superdome, New Orleans (LA)
The Detroit Lions, after a shaky start to the season, have risen to the top of the NFC North. Behind the likes of Matthew Stafford, Detroit now has control of their division and heads to New Orleans for an NFC match-up. Detroit now controls their own destiny headed into four tough match-ups to finish off the season, but they have to get through the Saints at home first.
Detroit has excelled behind their franchise quarterback Matt Stafford in the second half of their season and pulled off a big 16-13 win on Thanksgiving Day. With the absence of one of the best receivers of this generation, Calvin Johnson, the Lions were expected to struggle to pass the ball this season. However, Matt Stafford has recorded the highest quarterback rating (99.3) of his career so far. Behind his array of pass catchers, Stafford has spread the ball to Marvin Jones and Golden Tate perfectly and has found Theo Riddick out of the backfield as well. The Lions defense has had its struggles but clicked last week against a struggling Minnesota offense. Look for the Lions to rely on their pro bowler Haloti Ngata to get after Drew Brees and keep the Detroit defense on track.
On the opposite sideline, the home team is still in playoff contention and must win out to have a legitimate chance at reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Filled with a roster of young prospects, the Saints have lost many close games this season and have been really inconsistent on offense. After putting together a 49-21 whomping on the Los Angeles Rams a week ago, Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense look to do the same against a shaky Lions’ secondary. Look for speedster Brandin Cooks to get more looks with the ball in his hands, as he has emphasized that he wants a bigger role in the Saints’ offense. Head coach Sean Payton has found success with a balanced offense and will try to establish the run behind their running back duo of Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower. On defense, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has found success bringing pressure as of late and will continue to find ways to get after Matt Stafford. Rookie Sheldon Rankins has yet to make a name in the ‘black and gold’, but will be counted on more heavily in the run game and the pass rush.
Key Players to Watch:
Brandin Cooks – Wide Receiver – #10
Kenny Vacarro – Safety – #32
Cameron Jordan – Defensive End – #94
Theo Riddick – Running Back – #25
Haloti Ngata – Defensive Tackle -#92
Darius Slay – Cornerback – #23
The New Orleans Saints finally put together a consistent performance over four quarters last week against the struggling Rams and look to carry it over in a must-win home game. The young guys on the roster have played with tenacity and perseverance as of late and will find a way to force two turnovers against a firing Lions’ offense. Turnovers will win the game for either team but the Saints will find a way to get it done at home this week.