Matthew Stafford has led the Detroit Lions (10-6) to their first playoff appearance since 1999 and Drew Brees has the relentless and ridiculous record-setting New Orleans Saints (13-3) poised to return to the Super Bowl. It’s a battle in the Bayou and kicks off Saturday evening at 8:00pm EST on NBC in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Viewer Discretion Is NOT Advised: If you’re a fan of old-school, hard-boiled defensive battles, this inevitable fun-filled high-scoring affair might make you cringe. Therefore, you may just want to wait until the BCS National Championship game between Alabama and LSU or stick around for a possible rematch between the Ravens and Steelers. On the other hand, if you, like many, love lots of fireworks, then you’re in for a real treat.
This is the first game in NFL history featuring two quarterbacks who’ve each thrown for over 5,000 yards in the regular season facing off in the playoffs. The Saints lead the league in passing and scoring and are 2nd in total offense and 6th in rushing. While the Lions are ranked 29th in the ground game, they’re also top-notch through the air (4th in NFL with 300.9 yards per game) in scoring (4th in NFL with 29.6 points per game) and rank 5th in total offense (396.1 YPG).
While the Saints are slightly above the league average in scoring and run defense, Gregg Williams’ unit ranks 24th in total defense (368.4 YPG) and 30th against the pass (259.8 YPG). Detroit’s defense is 22nd against the pass and ranks 23rd against the run, in total defense and points allowed.
The return of Lions safety Louis Delmas and absence of wide out Lance Moore (hamstring) should improve the Lions’ chances of not giving up a whopping 50-burger to the Saints.
First Meeting Back in Week 13: When these two teams exchanged blows back in Week 13, the blue-collar Ford couldn’t quite keep pace with the Mercedes-Benz for four quarters, as the Saints defeated the Lions 31-17 at home. The two-touchdown difference had much more to deal with Detroit’s incessant, bone-headed penalties than New Orleans’ high-flying explosiveness, nonetheless.
In all, Detroit received 11 flags for 109 yards, including three personal foul penalties after the whistle. Every call came at a critical time in the game and cost the team dearly. In the end, the pile of penalties, as expected, became too tough to overcome.
So You’re Saying There’s A Chance…: Should the Lions come out inspired and play smart, sound football and not shoot themselves in the foot, they’ll have a chance to continue playing in the big dance. While the Saints are hands down the hottest team in the NFL right now, the Lions aren’t far behind and also come in with a full head of steam with Stafford and Calvin Johnson putting on a show every week.
Stafford and Megatron aren’t too pleased with the Pro Bowl and All-Pro voting snubs, either and could come out firing together on all cylinders. I expect a great game on tap—perhaps the best matchup of the entire postseason. Nevertheless, it’s incredibly difficult to imagine Brees and the Saints finishing one-and-done after so much success this season and last year’s dilemma in Seattle. Anything can happen, though—even in the Superdome, where the Saints were 8-0 at home in the regular season.
New Orleans’ home-field advantage might have more impact than expected, as Detroit’s pregame warmups were delayed for the marching band. That’s not exactly music to the ears of the Lions. Ndamukong Suh is present for this high-stakes scoring fest as well and that could give Detroit more than just a fighting chance. Look for the Lions to give the Saints absolutely everything they’ve got. At the end of the night, I think it will be a couple of plays short of pulling off the ground-breaking upset.
Prediction: New Orleans 38, Detroit 31
Verse of This Piece: “Doing right brings freedom to honest people, but those who are not trustworthy will be caught in their own desires.” —Proverbs 11:6