An In-Depth Preview Of The Lions Week Six Matchup Against The New Orleans Saints.
Saints ’17 Season So Far
Similar to last week’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers, the Saints have had a very up-and-down season so far. In recent years under head coach Sean Peyton, the Saints have been known for being a bit of an offensive powerhouse with a porous defense. However so far this season, the biggest factor in their wins and losses have been how well the defense has played.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is having a solid season this year. While he is in the middle of the pack in terms of yardage, but has thrown for eight touchdowns, nearly 70 percent completion, only taken four sacks, thrown no interceptions, and is ranked 3rd in quarterback rating. While the Saints success in games usually coincides with Brees’ performance, that has not been the case this season.
The main difference between their wins and losses this year comes from how well their secondary has played. The season started with two losses coming at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots. Vikings wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen were consistently open, aiding them to over 250 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The Tom Brady-led Patriots offense also racked up air mileage against the Saints to the tune of 447 yards and three touchdowns.
However the past two weeks against the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins, the Saints secondary has looked good. Intercepting the ball four times, allowing passing totals of 167 for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and 164 for Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler. The secondary also earned nine pass deflections over this period.
Matchups To Watch For
Lions Wide Receivers vs Saints Secondary
This matchup is likely the biggest one of the day. While the Saints secondary has been a big indicator for their success so far this season, the Lions receivers have been struggling to get open the past couple of weeks and were part of the reason for both of their losses this year.
This will be another tough one for the Lions receivers to take advantage of. The Panthers run a lot of press-man, which is something that has really slowed down the Lions offense in recent years. While Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are good in space, they have struggled against bigger corners in Detroit. The Saints run a lot of man as well.
They are running it better this year partially because rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore is playing very well the past two weeks. He is showing why he was chosen so early in the 1st round. But is up to the Lions veteran receivers to take advantage of the youth in the Saints secondary. If they can win this matchup, it should be a good sign for Detroit to win their third straight road game.
Jarrad Davis vs Saints Running Backs
Part of the Saints secret to their highly consistent offense is their ability to find success running the ball with multiple backs. They have not been as productive as years past in the rushing game. But their running backs typically do everything in their offense. They make their presence felt as runners, as receivers, and also do well blocking at a position that usually struggles to do so.
While some of the Saint’s low sack total has to do with their quick passing scheme, it also has to do with the blocking they receive out of their backfield. Which is why Jarrad Davis’ success will be important in this game. He is the only true three down linebacker the Lions have. If he can pass rush, run stuff, and cover these running backs well, you could the Saints offense start to falter.
Drew Brees vs Lions Secondary
The Lions defense has been opportunistic this season. They are currently fourth in the league in interceptions with seven on the year. Some of this has been due to fortunate tips going the Lions way this year. But the secondary has played much better this season compared to ’16. Better technique puts you in better position to make a play on the ball and these opportunistic turnovers have been the result.
But they likely will not get those same opportunities against Brees. He is typically very good at taking care of the football. Which is the case again this season as he has yet to throw one. If the secondary is able to generate interceptions in against the Saints quarterback, it will likely have to be a result of great play and positioning on the ball. If Glover Quin and Darius Slay can use their top tier skills to get a couple of turnovers for their struggling offense, it could really help the Lions have a shot to get a win in New Orleans.
Prediction: Lions Win 21-20
I think this one will be close. With quarterback Matthew Stafford coming off of two injuries right now, it will be harder for him to beat the Saints secondary alone. The receivers will need to make some guys miss and generate some big plays. I think they do and grab an interception to secure the close win.