by Christian S. Kohl
As Wildcard weekend kicks off this Saturday, look no further for four quarters of unrelenting aerial assaults than the battle of Saints vs. the Lions. The mind-boggling yardage totals compiled by the two starting quarterbacks, coupled with the nearly 8,000 total passing yards allowed by the two defenses dramatically incentivizes both sides to continue pursuing unbalanced passing attacks and simply letting it fly. Expect a high scoring affair with a heavy dose of attempts at big plays from both sides. New Orleans will clearly place the fate of the team and season on Drew Brees, Detroit on the shoulders of their young and confident quarterback, Matthew Stafford.
Look for the role of Pierre Thomas to continue to decline, as Darren Sproles continues to represent a dangerous threat in space and in the screen game. Should Detroit begin to relent its presence in the box, New Orleans will likely counter with the punishing and physical Christopher Ivory. Look for Ivory to also represent the primary short yardage threat in goal line situations.
All eyes of the Saints defense will certainly be on Calvin Johnson, with an aim toward forcing Stafford to work deeper into his progressions to find secondary options. The strategy of simply containing Johnson appears as difficult to execute as it is obvious in theory, as he has comfortably worked through doubles all year and remained an elite red zone threat. With or without a massive day from Megatron though, Detroit will require strong performances from its complimentary receivers in Titus Young and Nate Burleson. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler will also need to make their presences felt in order to match the New Orleans attack step for step.
The ability of both teams to stretch the field have all the makings of a potentially thrilling four quarter battle. Though Lance Moore is injured and Meachem is hobbled, don’t blink. Relaxing for a second may well result in a big play strike to Henderson, Meachem or the remarkable Jimmy Graham.
Though New Orleans handled the Lions without enormous incident in week 13, the missing variable of course was Ndamukong Suh. Suh will no doubt look to make his presence felt throughout the entirety of the game, and perhaps compensate for his absence on December 4th with devastating and physical play in this contest. Should he play well alongside the Detroit defensive front, that could potentially create less time in the pocket for Brees, longer 3rd down situations, and greater chances for turnovers in addition to defensive points.
Fueled by the emotions of the playoffs and the electric atmosphere of the Superdome, this contest should play much closer than their earlier meeting and could very well come down to the final drive or overtime. Should either team need shutdown yardage with a lead in order to control time of possession late in the fourth, Ivory’s battering style likely would pay more dividends than a hobbled Kevin Smith. With the New Orleans running attack in less disarray than Detroit’s along with the experience of Brees in playoff situations, the edge, though small, goes to New Orleans at home. Don’t count out the young and hungry Lions, however. Should they limit mistakes, convert on third downs and capitalize in the red zone and turnover game, they could very well take this contest in a brutally tough road matchup. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t miss this game, as there will absolutely be a heavy dose of points, emotion, and fireworks. No better way to kick off the playoffs.
Christian S. Kohl is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City. Find out more about him at dailyspew.com