Cleat Geeks

Lions (3-2) @ Saints (2-2): Saints Back In Action

After a long rest due to a bye week, the New Orleans Saints (2-2) have taken the time to get healed up and prepare for a tough match-up against QB Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions (3-2). The last time the Saints played in a game was two weeks ago in London against the Miami Dolphins where New Orleans shut out the Dolphins 20-0. This is also the first home for the Saints in almost a month. The last home game for the Saints was on September 17th (week 2 match-up) against the New England Patriots when they lost eminently with a 36-20 score.Image result for adrian peterson arizona cardinals

The biggest storyline for the Saints this whole week was the trading of 7-time Pro Bowl Running Back Adrian Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional 6th round NFL Draft pick. The departure of Peterson clearly more illustrates how he did not fit into the Offensive schemes at New Orleans and possibly how his best days are behind him. Through 4 games for New Orleans, Peterson rushed for 81 yards on 27 carries. New Orleans was still trying to become a more productive offense and having an aging Peterson in the 3rd string depth chart was obviously more of a distraction to the Saints organization than a great building block.

With New Orleans still pressing forward against a tough Detroit Lions team, the Saints have a big opportunity to make themselves a legitimate threat in the NFC South. Detroit has been playing great in 4 of their games while their biggest disappointment was a 27-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers, a team that New Orleans defeated 34-13 in week 3.

 

Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Lions QB Matthew Stafford

Very likely, this match-up between the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions could be a potential shootout. Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford are two of the best Quarterbacks in the NFL in terms of completely high-velocity deep passes. Last season, Brees finished 1st in the regular season in total passing yards (5,208) and Stafford finished 6th in the regular season in total passing yards (4,327). This is with New Orleans having their #1 Wide Receiver in Brandin Cook, who is now with the New England Patriots.

This season, Drew Brees is currently 16th in the NFL in total passing yards with 1,135 yards in only 4 games into the 2017-2018 NFL season. Lions QB Matthew Stafford is 17th in the NFL in passing yards with 1,116 yards through the Lions’ 5 games of the season. With the leadership and the arm of Drew Brees, the Saints are 4th in the league in passing yards per game (276.5 yards) and 12th in points per game (23.3 points). While Stafford has led his Lions team to be ranked 23rd in the nation in passing yards per game (200.6 yards) and 10th in points per game (24.6 points).

The support staff of the Quarterbacks will be the difference maker

Both of these Quarterbacks are going to pass the ball efficiently and keep drives going through long deep passes. The difference maker in this match-up will be the impact from the Receiver corps and the stability of the Offensive Line. Detroit and New Orleans have excellent and reliable Receivers for different reasons. Detroit has a passing game that has mostly been impacted from a short-yard game from slant routes of WR Golden Tate, flat routes from RB Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah, and single-coverage short verticals from TE Eric Ebron. New Orleans also has a diverse Receiver corps where 6 of their offensive players have at least 125 yards or more. Of those 6 receivers, 3 of them are actual Wide Receivers. Saints WR Michael Thomas is the team’s leading Receiver with 310 yards, 2 touchdowns, 19 first-downs as well as 4 of his catches going over 20 yards. WR Willie Snead could make his debut for the Saints this season but is questionable with a hamstring injury.

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The big difference maker could be the Offensive Line where even though New Orleans’ O-Line hasn’t been stable with health, they have only given up 4 sacks. Most of this is Drew Brees throwing away the ball efficiently. For Detroit, they have certainly had struggles protecting Matthew Stafford as the O-Line has given up 18 total sacks so far this season. Detroit is tied for 4th in the NFL in total allowed sacks. If the Lions cannot pass protect efficiently then it will allow Saints DE Cameron Jordan or DE/OLB Alex Okafor to have a big game. It hurts the Lions defense that star DT Haloti Ngata is likely out for the season with a biceps injury. The Lions will rely on 2nd year DT A’Shawn Robinson more as he will go against Saints G Andrus Peat often. Peat is not only the Saints inconsistent blockers but is suffering a hip injury.

 

This can be a make or break game for the Saints defense, especially in their Secondary

For the past two games, the defense for the New Orleans Saints has improved dramatically from where they were in the first 2 games of the season. In the first 2 games of the season, the Saints have given up an average of 32.5 points to the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots. The next 2 games  for the Saints, they have given an average of 6.5 points to the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins. This includes the fact that they shut out the Miami Dolphins.

The Secondary is the position group that has benefited the most from the increase of performance. After the week 2 performance of the Patriots victory over the Saints, the defense was ranked 32nd (last) in the league in passing yards allowed per game (388.5 yards) and 32nd in the league in total yards allowed per game (512.5 yards). Though the Saints have only decreased to being ranked to 28th in the league in passing yards allowed per game, the Saints have now only allowed 265 passing yards allowed per game. This is a 123 yards difference after the 2nd week of the 2017-2018 NFL season.

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The Saints Defensive Backs have progressed their man-to-man pass coverage and relied less on zone coverages. The impact of the 2017 1st round NFL Draft pick in CB Marshon Lattimore has been highly notable as one of the best coverage players on the field. Lattimore rarely lets a Receiver beat while in man-to-man. CB Ken Crawley has also improved dramatically with his performance including accounting for 4 pass deflections and an interception. S Kenny Vaccaro, when given a man-to-man coverage on a Tight End or a Slot Receiver, has improved since his lackluster performance against New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. Vaccaro will likely be tasked with covering TE Eric Ebron or their best Receiver in Golden Tate when in as a slot Receiver. If the Saints pass defense continue to play efficient and DE Cameron Jordan makes consistent pressure, then New Orleans will have a big win to make themselves 3-2.

 

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