If the NFL and NBC envisioned the Saints marching and the Lions roaring when they flexed Detroit’s visit to New Orleans to prime time on Sunday, at least they got it half right.
Drew Brees and his bayou buddies made it look so easy in the Big Easy against the Giants last Monday night.
As the Saints showed against the Giants’ anemic pass rush, putting pressure on Brees is essential. Otherwise, he’s going to find more open targets than you can count, and New Orleans will light up the Superdome scoreboard.
The Saints (8-3) have won three straight and four of five with an offense that is clicking so precisely it might be confused with the Green Bay Packers. And the Lions come off a humiliating loss to those Packers in Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving gag fest, a defeat punctuated by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s stomping of an opponent that drew him a two-game suspension.
For Detroit, that 5-0 start is plummeting into another distressing season. The Lions are 7-4, and with trips to Oakland and Green Bay remaining, the reality is the playoffs rapidly are slipping out of their grasp. They desperately need to upset the 9-point favored Saints.
“I think we need to worry more about ourselves and how we play and not, you know, sit there and watch TV too much and ... read too much stuff on the Saints,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “The Saints are 8-3, we’re 7-4. They’re a game ahead of us, you know; they’ve lost three games, they lost to Tampa, a team that we beat, they lost to Green Bay, they lost to St. Louis.
“It’s about us and the way we play and trying to accentuate our strengths more than worrying too much about the opponent.”
It’s also about matchups, and the Lions do have the league’s sixth-ranked pass defense. Trying to cover Green Bay’s legion of receivers was good practice for trying to handle Brees’ guys.
But they couldn’t cover the Packers all that well and it will be more of the same in New Orleans. The Saints are too hot for fading Detroit to handle. ... SAINTS, 37-27
Indianapolis (plus 20½) at New England — Patriots may have big spread covered by halftime. ... BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 44-10
Oakland (plus 3) at Miami — This one is simple: Raiders are better team, should be favored. ... UPSET SPECIAL: RAIDERS, 21-15
Dallas (minus 4½) at Arizona — Tempting to see this as trap game with Giants up next for Dallas. ... COWBOYS, 24-21
Green Bay (minus 7) at New York Giants — Everything Giants did in New Orleans indicates another loss in similar matchup. ... PACKERS, 33-20
Cincinnati (plus 6½) at Pittsburgh — Bengals scare top division rivals, don’t beat them. ... STEELERS, 20-19
Baltimore (minus 6½) at Cleveland — Ravens can’t afford a slip in race for top AFC seed. ... RAVENS, 20-6
St. Louis (plus 13) at San Francisco — Niners clinch NFC West with a win. No sweat. ... 49ERS, 24-7
Philadelphia (minus 3) at Seattle, today — A dud matchup for NFL Network, especially with Michael Vick out again. ... EAGLES, 17-16
Atlanta (minus 2½) at Houston — Defense and running game won’t be quite enough for Texans. ... FALCONS, 22-17
Tennessee (plus 1½) at Buffalo — Titans still thinking playoffs, Bills too banged-up to have any more hope. ... TITANS, 17-13
Kansas City (plus 8) at Chicago — Anybody got a quarterback worth watching? ... BEARS, 20-7
New York Jets (minus 3) at Washington — Jets don’t do anything easily, yet are alive in wild-card chase. ... JETS, 16-14
Carolina (plus 3½) at Tampa Bay — Two NFC South teams whose seasons have gone south. ... BUCCANEERS, 27-24
San Diego (minus 2½) at Jacksonville, Monday night — One coaching change (Del Rio) made, one (Turner) on the way. ... JAGUARS, 16-14
Denver (OFF) at Minnesota — Off, on, up, down, in, out — doesn’t matter. Go with Tebow. ... BRONCOS, 14-13
Against spread: 7-7 (overall 88-74-4); straight up 10-6 (overall 114-62).
Best Bet: 2-10 against spread, 7-5 straight up.
Upset Special: 8-4 against spread, 6-6 straight up.