Just a month or so ago, the New Orleans Saints absolutely destroyed the Detroit Lions, pretty much from start to finish. Now, the two teams meet again with a spot in the divisional round of the playoffs on the line on Saturday at the Superdome.
There is a lot of talk that this is the first time the Lions have been in the postseason since 1999, but even the more alarming stat is that they haven’t won a game in the postseason since 1991. Barry Sanders was only 23 years old at that point. That being said, this is one of the best editions of the Lions in a half century, and the passing game did things that no one would have expected. QB Matt Stafford was largely under the radar for most of the season, but whereas both QB Aaron Rodgers and QB Eli Manning came up short of 5,000 passing yards, Stafford got there on the final day of the regular season. WR Calvin Johnson ended up leading the league in receiving thanks to having over 500 receiving yards in his last three games of the year, including two 200+ yard efforts. All three of TE Brandon Pettigrew, WR Nate Burleson, and WR Titus Young had at least 600 receiving yards as well, making it one of the best foursomes of receivers in the league. Defensively DT Ndamukong Suh didn’t played against New Orleans the first time around, and the hope is that his presence in the lineup can make all the difference in the world.
Last year, the Saints were the biggest favorites on the NFL odds in the first round of the playoffs, but they crashed out thanks to a terrible defense meltdown on the road at the Seattle Seahawks. This year though, the first game is going to be back at home in the Superdome, where the Saints just simply don’t get beaten. If you thought that Detroit’s passing game was frightening, just check out New Orleans’ passing game. TE Jimmy Graham led the team in receptions with 99, setting a record for most receptions by a tight end in a season, and he had 1,310 yards. WR Marques Colston had 1,143 yards, while WR Lance Moore, WR Robert Meachem, and WR Devery Henderson all had at least 500 receiving yards as well. And for good measure, let’s toss in the fact that RB Pierre Thomas had nearly 1,000 yards between rushing and receiving, RB Mark Ingram had a respectable rookie season, and RB Chris Ivory had 374 rushing yards in just six games… Oh, and RB Darren Sproles just broke the record for most all-purpose yards in a season after logging 603 on the ground, 710 as a receiver, 297 as a punt returner, and 1,089 as a kick returner.
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints Trends: The Saints are a trendy pick this week for some very good reasons. They have covered eight games in a row and have covered 12 straight here at the Superdome. They have also won and covered three in a row in this series, outscoring Detroit 118-51 in the process. The Lions didn’t allow a single team to score 27 points against them until November 13th. Since that point, they have allowed at least 27 in seven out of eight games.