Here are five things to watch for during the Detroit Lions game against the New Orleans Saints that could be the things we talk about once it is all over.
1. Turnover Margin
The Lions winning the turnover battle means two important things for this game. One, they found a way to hold the Saints offense to empty possessions and two, they likely have shorter fields to work with. With the Lions secondary beat up, I just don’t expect the defense to force punts and hold the Saints to field goals when they do score. It will take some big plays from the defense and a complete game of good decision making by Matthew Stafford to tilt the advantage in the Lions’ favor.
2. Kevin Smith
Maurice Morris has provided some nice spurts of action but Kevin Smith brings a little more zip to the offense. We’ll probably know what he can provide pretty early in the game as he tests out his ankle.
3. Defensive Line
The Lions will miss Ndamukong Suh to some degree but they have capable players to fill the snaps he would have played. Sammie Hill will get more time and Nick Fairley likely gets the start. Can one of them make some big plays or perhaps Avril or Vanden Bosch? This point likely works in concert with number one above.
This is a big time game so the Lions will need their big time players to play their very best. Can Calvin Johnson have his best game of the year? He has the potential to be the best player on the field tonight and he might need to be just that to give his team a chance to win.
5. The Ultimate Narrative
Earlier losses by the Bears and Falcons means the Lions can’t lose ground in the playoff chase, even with a loss of their own. With basically everybody expecting the Lions to lose they have the chance to grab the bull by the horns (mmm, cliches…) with a win or at least prove they belong with a close loss. I feel like they do have something to prove in justifying the decision to flex this game into primetime. We’ll see if the low expectations allow them to play loose or the pressure of a playoff race is too much to handle.