The second game of the NFL playoffs has the Detroit Lions (10-6) traveling to New Orleans to take on the Saints (13-3). Detroit is back in the postseason for the first time since the 1999 season, while the Saints are looking to bounce back from an embarrassing Wild Card loss to the 7-9 Seahawks a year ago.
On paper, the game promises to be a high-scoring affair. Both teams are in the bottom 10 in the league in yards allowed per game. They are each noticeably porous against the pass, so Matt Stafford and Drew Brees should find opportunities to throw downfield.
Brees set a new NFL record for passing yards in a season with 5,476 and also led the league in touchdown passes with 46.
Not far behind, Stafford finished with 41 touchdown passes of his own. Together, the Saints and Lions represent two of the top four passing offenses in the NFL.
The Lions opened many eyes to start 2011, going 5-0 before losing two straight against San Francisco and Atlanta. Still, their turnaround from a bottom-dwelling team into a winning one has rejuvenated Lions fans. WR Calvin Johnson set a new team record with 16 receiving touchdowns during Stafford’s big year.
These teams met in December in New Orleans, when the Saints pulled out a 31-17 win behind Brees’s 342 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford put up 408 yards and a touchdown, but Detroit’s defense could not contain the season’s top passer.
However, the Lions were without Ndamukong Suh a month ago due to suspension. He will be back Saturday and should provide an extra spark of quarterback pressure for the Lions defensive line.
A victory for Detroit will still be a tall order, as New Orleans went undefeated at home this season and enters the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak.
In addition to their proficient passing game, the Saints may also benefit from second-year RB Chris Ivory. With Mark Ingram done for the year, Ivory shined with 127 rushing yards and a touchdown last week against Carolina. Such production should be welcomed by all-purpose threat Darren Sproles and backup Pierre Thomas.