Matt and Zac Snyder of Bleacher Report and mittensportsreport.com break down this week's Detroit Lions football match-up.
When the Lions have the ball...
Detroit's passing attack vs. New Orleans' defensive backs
Zac says: On one hand, Matthew Stafford used the preseason to show off the physical gifts that made him the first overall pick. On the other hand, he threw a pick in each game. This season will be a learning process for the team's largest investment. If Stafford can develop a solid connection with Calvin Johnson while not ignoring his other targets, the offense could have some success. That being said, starting a rookie in week one is asking for trouble. Advantage: Saints
Matt says: The Saints pass defense ranked in the bottom third of the league last year, and they'll be tested this week by Calvin Johnson and the strong arm of rookie Matthew Stafford. The key to this match up will be how much time the offensive line gives Stafford to find the open man down field. The Lion receivers should provide the rookie with plenty of targets. Advantage: Lions
Detroit's running game vs. New Orleans' front seven
Zac says: The biggest bright spot during the pre-season was definitely the Lions running game. Kevin Smith has looked lean and fast and has a year of pro experience under his belt. I expect a breakout year behind an offensive line that seems to have found a nasty streak. Maurice Morris provides veteran experience while rookie Aaron Brown has fantastic speed. New Orleans has found success in recent years because of their offense, not their defense. Advantage: Lions
Matt says: Kevin Smith is indeed a dandy at running back for Detroit, and with a rookie quarterback they'll need him to carry the load. Smith provides a good combination of power and speed and looks to have a great day if the Lion offensive line can give him even the slightest bit of room to run. Advantage: Lions
When the Saints have the ball...
New Orleans' passing attack vs. Detroit's defensive backs
Zac says: The Lions defensive backfield may be the weakest part of a weak defense. Anthony Henry, Phillip Buchanon and Louis Delmas are all talent upgrades over a year ago but there is still progress to be made. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is coming off a year that nearly saw him break Dan Marino's single season passing yardage record. Advantage: Saints
Matt says: The Saints, led by quarterback Drew Brees, had one of the most prolific passing offenses in NFL history a season ago. The Lions, who still employ a patchwork defensive secondary, will quite simply be over matched this weekend in New Orleans. Advantage: Saints
New Orleans' running game vs. Detroit's front seven
Zac says: Running back Pierre Thomas appears to be out for week one due to a knee laceration. That will give Reggie Bush the chance to show, as Saints brass believes, that he is capable of being an every down feature back. He's probably going up against the perfect defense to show just what he can do. The Lions lack depth on the defensive line but will need big production from the guys that play. Unless the front four can hold the line of scrimmage the strong Linebacker corps will be unable to make the kind of plays of which they are capable. Advantage: Saints
Matt says: The Lions finished the 2008 campaign as the NFL's worst run defense. They've added two high quality linebackers in Julian Peterson and Larry Foote, but the defensive line is still a weak point. Speedster Reggie Bush figures to get the bulk of the carries for the Saints this week and the Lions can ill afford to let him find daylight. Advantage: Saints
Zac says: The Lions have a long way to go before they can be expected to compete with good teams on the road. Signs of competency on defense and a strong running game would be a step in the right direction. The Lions only shot at winning may be staying score for score with the Saints in a shootout. I don't see it happening. New Orleans 34, Detroit 20
Matt says: The Saints are going score points, but the question will be how well the Lions offense can move the ball. Will Stafford be able to avoid those rookie mistakes we saw in the preseason? Will the offensive line be able to keep the pressure off of the rookie? The Lions may be able to hang with the Saints for a while, but I really don't see them snapping their 17 game losing streak this week. New Orleans 35, Detroit 24
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