Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: Full New Orleans Game Preview

Zane BrownContributor IIIDecember 17, 2015

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: Full New Orleans Game Preview

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Monday Night Football returns to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 15, as the home-standing New Orleans Saints take on the Detroit Lions in a prime-time matchup.

    New Orleans (5-8) is fresh off its first win over an NFC South divisional foe this season. Coach Sean Payton’s club went on the road last Sunday and took down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, snapping a four-game losing streak in the process.

    Detroit (4-9) got off to a horrendous 0-5 start this year. After posting three straight wins in November, the Lions have dropped two straight, the latest of which was a 21-14 setback against the St. Louis Rams last Sunday.

    The Saints' passing game has been in high gear the past couple of weeks, and quarterback Drew Brees and Co. will look to continue their recent success against a capable Lions pass defense that ranks No. 10 in the league.

    Meanwhile, New Orleans will try to build on last week’s impressive defensive performance, which was by far its best showing to date under coordinator Dennis Allen.

    Read on for a full preview of this Monday night matchup, which kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT.

Week 14 Recap

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    The reeling Saints, losers of four straight, went into Raymond James Stadium last Sunday and dealt a hefty blow to the Bucs’ playoff chances, scoring a 24-17 victory.

    New Orleans went on a 10-play scoring drive on its first offensive possession, taking a 7-0 lead on Brees’ touchdown strike to Marques Colston. With the throw, Brees tied Dan Marino for fourth place all time in touchdown passes with 420.

    The 36-year-old would later claim sole possession of fourth place, passing Marino with a second touchdown toss to Colston in the second quarter, giving the Saints a 14-0 lead.

    Tampa Bay trimmed the lead to seven with an 80-yard scoring drive, and the two teams then traded field goals to close out the half with the Saints in front, 17-10.

    New Orleans put together another nice drive near the end of the third quarter, going ahead 24-10 on Tim Hightower’s three-yard touchdown run. The veteran back handled a heavy work load for the Saints between the tackles, as he churned out 85 hard-earned yards on 28 carries.

    Tampa Bay added another touchdown in the fourth quarter on a Jameis Winston scoring pass to Adam Humphries. The Saints defense would stand firm on the Buccaneers’ final possession, however, and the offense ran out the clock with a four-minute drive to seal the victory.

    The New Orleans defense allowed just 291 offensive yards in the contest, which was the fewest the unit had allowed in a game all season.

    Offensively, Brees led the way as he hit on 31 of 41 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He’ll certainly be looking to carry that momentum into this week’s contest, as New Orleans returns to the big stage of Monday Night Football.  

Saints-Lions Series

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Saints and the Lions have never competed in the same division, and yet they have a rather extensive history with each other.

    The two clubs have met a total of 23 times, with New Orleans holding a slight 12-10-1 advantage.

    The Saints have won three straight games in the Superdome, the latest of which was an NFC Wild Card game in January 2012. New Orleans hammered Detroit, 45-28, after having beaten the Lions by two scores in the same building just four weeks earlier in the regular season.

    Last year, Detroit upset the visiting Saints, 24-23, at Ford Field. The win was the Lions’ first in the series since December 2005 when they posted a 13-12 victory over coach Jim Haslett’s New Orleans squad in San Antonio’s Alamodome. The Saints were still displaced by Hurricane Katrina at the time, and the Superdome was unavailable that season.

    The lone tie in the series came in the teams’ first meeting when they played to a 20-20 deadlock at Detroit’s now-demolished Tiger Stadium in 1968.

Injury News

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    The Saints won’t release an official injury report until Thursday for this week’s Monday night contest, but there were a couple of injury-related transactions this week.

    Damian Swann

    According to Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com, the Saints have placed rookie cornerback Damian Swann on injured reserve.

    A fifth-round draft pick in 2015, Swann impressed in his first NFL season, earning significant playing time. He suffered his second concussion of the year on November 1, however, and he missed the next four games.

    Swann returned last week, but he appeared to suffer yet another head injury and was forced to leave the contest.

    The former Georgia Bulldog played in a total of seven games this season, recording 22 tackles and four passes defended.

    Marcus Murphy

    Another rookie, running back Marcus Murphy, was also placed on injured reserve, according to Terrell’s report.

    Drafted in the seventh round, the explosive return man brought back 12 kickoffs this season for an average of 25 yards per return. In addition, he returned 28 punts, bringing one back for a touchdown, while averaging 9.3 yards per return.

    Murphy suffered an ankle sprain against the Buccaneers last Sunday.

    Meanwhile, the Saints are hoping to get a couple of injured starters back for this week’s contest against the Lions.

    Right guard Jahri Evans has sat out the last two games with an ankle injury. An accomplished run blocker, Evans was replaced by left guard Tim Lelito in the starting lineup, while rookie Andrus Peat stepped into Lelito’s vacated spot. Both Lelito and Peat performed well against the Buccaneers, but the Saints would obviously like to get Evans back soon.

    On the other side of the ball, New Orleans was without defensive tackle John Jenkins, who was out with a concussion. Like Evans, Jenkins has also been out of action for two straight weeks.

    Rookie Tyeler Davison has shown some promise in his absence, but the Saints could certainly use the 360-pound Jenkins to help clog the middle Sunday against Detroit running backs Joique Bell, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. 

Key Matchups to Watch

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Saints Linebackers vs. Lions Running Backs

    The Lions offense was coordinated by former Saints assistant Joe Lombardi until he was fired six weeks ago, but some of the same concepts he implemented are still in play.

    For instance, Detroit heavily involves its running backs in the passing game, much like New Orleans does under Payton. Just last week, the Lions completed 11 passes to a trio of running backs (Riddick, Abdullah and Bell) for a combined total of 90 yards.

    Yes, strong-armed quarterback Matt Stafford will look to wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, along with tight end Eric Ebron, in the downfield passing game, but the Saints can’t sleep on the Detroit running backs on swing passes and quick-hitters into the flats.

    New Orleans middle linebacker Stephone Anthony should match up well with Bell and Abdullah when they attempt to run between the tackles, but he’ll also be needed to do his part in pass coverage.

    The Saints defense, on the whole, is faster and more athletic with Dannell Ellerbe on the field, and the veteran ‘backer made a big difference for New Orleans in his return to action last Sunday after missing five games. If healthy, he’ll be counted on again this week to help corral Detroit’s stable of backs.

    New Orleans Offensive Tackles vs. Ezekiel Ansah

    Brees carved up the Buccaneers in surgical fashion last week, and he’s completed 55 passes for nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns over the past two games.

    The decorated passer was a true difference-maker in New Orleans’ Sunday afternoon triumph in Tampa, and he’ll undoubtedly be gunning for another highly productive performance in front of the home crowd on Monday night.

    Standing in his way will be Detroit’s pass-rushing extraordinaire, defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. After registering a combined 15 sacks in his first two NFL seasons, Ansah has 13.5 thus far in his third year, and he’s been a thorn in the side of opposing passers on a regular basis.

    Saints left tackle Terron Armstead, who’s been battling a knee injury in recent weeks, will likely be tasked with blocking Ansah on a good number of plays, although right tackle Zach Strief will draw the assignment at times, as well.

    If New Orleans can keep the 6’5”, 278-pounder in check for the majority of the contest, Brees should be able to connect with his trusted targets downfield, such as tight end Benjamin Watson and wideout Willie Snead.

Prediction

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Not so long ago, the Saints were widely considered a lock when playing at home on Monday Night Football, regardless of the opponent. Such is no longer the case, but Payton’s club is still a tough out when playing at night amid the deafening roar of the Superdome.

    With the crowd at its back, look for the New Orleans defense to come out fired up and to play with the same intensity it displayed last week. The Lions’ inability to run the ball has hurt them all season, and the Saints front seven should be able to win its share of battles and force some punts.

    On the other side of the ball, Brees will be on point, if given time, and he’ll have a host of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs to distribute the ball to.

    The tough-running Hightower should provide the Saints with enough balance to keep the Detroit defense honest, and he could be in for another 20-plus carries.

    New Orleans will start fast in this one, and by the end of the night, the Saints will have earned their sixth win.

    Saints 27, Lions 17

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