New Orleans Saints (2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (4-2 SU, 4-2 ATS)
NFL Week 7
Date and Time: Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NO +2.5/DET -2.5
Over/Under Total: 48.5
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On Sunday at Ford Field, the New Orleans Saints face the Detroit Lions in a pivotal game for both teams. For Detroit, going to 5-2 sounds a heck of a lot better than 4-3 and they will be looking to take it to a beleaguered Saints defense on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Saints are looking to soldier their way to .500 and eventually resume their role as perennial NFC power. A loss here would really put their 2014 season on the skids at 2-4.
The Lions bounced back from a discouraging home loss to Buffalo two weeks ago with a dominant 17-3 win on the road against the Vikings on Sunday. And its not a high-flying passing game thats getting it done. Golden Tate has been excellent in his first season in Detroit, with 495 yards so far. But the run game is barely averaging 3 yards a run and Calvin Johnson has either not been playing or has been barely utilized for the last month, as he is still dealing with an injured ankle. Stafford has 7 TD passes and 4 picks. So its not the offense responsible for the good start.
Detroit has the number-one defense in the league right now–ranked first against the pass and second against the run. Theyre getting colossal production in all areas. The line is robust with Ndanukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Ziggy Ansah (questionable for Sunday) making it happen. The secondary of Rasean Mathis, Glover Quin, Darius Slay, and James Ihedigbo are giving up very little. Only a home Carolina team managed to surpass 17 points so far against this defense. They could just use a little boost on offense, where they are currently a mid-pack unit in light of all the injuries. Getting Johnson back, along with Reggie Bush, Eric Ebron, and others will provide a big boost. All are questionable for Sunday.
New Orleans is coming off a bye-week where you have to assume a lot of work was put into correcting issues on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. Its not that theyre allowing so many points, even though they are 28th in that area at 28.2 points per game allowed. Theyre actually not that bad, but made to look worse with a total lack of clutch so far this season. Two of their three losses were imminently winnable games, if not for a D that collapsed at the most inopportune time. And losing big offseason free agent signing S Jairus Byrd to injury for the season doesnt help, either, though he had not been playing very well.
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By overcoming a double-digit deficit to beat Tampa in overtime two weeks ago, the Saints were able to take some positive momentum into the bye week after dropping three of their first four games. A bettor might be inclined to defer to the Payton-Brees track record that indicates an ability to overcome adversity and thrive in tough conditions. The other part of you wants to believe what your eyes see, which is a Saints team that doesnt look all that much like what weve grown to expect.
Brees has been a tick off, but a blossoming run-game should help. Khiry Robinson has been very useful and they get Mark Ingram back this week, who was finally starting to show the form that was expected out of him coming out of college. Maybe that will give the passing-game more bite, so Brees can make better use of a great package of pass-catchers like TE Jimmy Graham, WR Marques Colston, and promising rookie Brandin Cooks.
Its no coincidence that Calvin Johnson being out has coincided with a massive dropoff in offensive production for Detroit. This wont be the offensive showdown it would have been in past years. New Orleans is doing badly in turnover margin, securing a measly two turnovers all season, while turning it over 9 times. If they can improve in that category and establish the run-game, as Detroit plugs away and depends on their suddenly stout D, this game could be a bigger grind than what is normally seen from these typically high-flying aerial attacks.
This is must-win for the Saints. If the defense continues to play this way, it might not matter how much urgency they feel. You have to wonder if defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is going through the sophomore jinx, as he has gone through that before in his previous tenures. Last season, he was masterful in turning around a historically-inept defense in his first season as Saints coordinator, but that mojo looks to have whooshed out of this units sails.
It comes down to perception vs. reality and drawing the line between the past and present. The Detroit D has been top-notch, but is that for real or just a good 5-6 game window? The Saints are not showing their previous form on either side of the ball, but whos to say for sure the bye week wont help them get back to their normal ways? My guess is that the Detroit defense is actually quite good and should keep New Orleans from breaking into full-stride. With some key guys getting back into the fold in the Lions offense, they should be able to put up points, especially at home and against this defense. Its a dicey proposition any time you go against a former champion in what really amounts to a must-win game, but sometimes wanting to win really bad isnt enough. Im going with the Lions.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Detroit Lions minus 2.5 points.