This is the second of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:
The New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions open up the NFC Wild Card games on Saturday at 8 ET on NBC in New Orleans. The Saints haven’t lost since week eight and has won by more than 20 points in its past three games. The Lions have won three of their last four, but gave up 45 points in a loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday in a game that Aaron Rodgers didn’t play. In their one meeting this year, New Orleans defeated Detroit 31- 17 behind 342 yards and three touchdowns from Drew Brees. Here’s a look at the matchup:
Offense: For New Orleans, this is all about Drew Brees, who sent an NFL record with 5476 passing yards in the season and is neck and neck with Aaron Rodgers for the MVP award. While running back Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas combined to rush for just 1165 yards, they averaged nearly six yards a rush. Brees moved the ball around to his receivers, with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston his favorite targets.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford wasn’t too shabby either, throwing for more than 5000 yards as well and 41 touchdowns. Stafford looked to wide receiver Calvin Johnson the most as the two connected on 96 passes for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns. On the ground, the Lions weren’t as effective as running backs Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith combined for just 746 yards, less than four yards a carry.
Defense: As has been the case all year with strong offensive teams, those teams don’t fare as well on the other side of the ball and that is true of both the Lions and Saints. The teams were 23rd and 24th in total defense, respectively with Detroit giving up 14 fewer yards than New Orleans did over the course of the entire year. The Lions have the better pass defense while the Saints are better defending against the run. However, Detroit forced 32 turnovers on the year while the Saints forced just 14, tied for the fewest in the NFL.
Special Teams: New Orleans possesses the better kickoff and punt return games while the teams are nearly equal on field goals. The Saints made 82.4 percent of their field goal attempt while the Lions were successful on 82.8 percent of theirs.
Overall: The Saints are just the better team and playing at home will be too much for the Lions to overcome. Brees has had a phenomenal season and I expect it to continue this week. Offensively, the Saints are better at all fronts and while Detroit’s defense is better, I don’t see how it can contain Brees and company. Home-field advantage all, but seals the deal for a solid Saints’ victory:
New Orleans 38 Detroit 24