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Fearless Prediction: Lions (0-0) at Saints (0-0)

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Game Snapshot

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: FOX (Chris Myers, Trent Green)
SERIES: 20th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 9-9-1. Saints routed Lions on Dec. 21 at Ford Field, 42-7, though they had been eliminated from the playoffs and Lions were trying to avoid winless season. Lions won three previous meetings. KEYS TO THE GAME: The Lions handed the reins to No. 1 overall pick QB Matthew Stafford in large part due to his arm strength and ability to stretch the field. But the onus will be on RB Kevin Smith, who dropped about 10 pounds, to provide ground support. The Saints start a new tandem of corners in Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter who will need to keep WR Calvin Johnson - the Lions' lone real big-play threat - in check. Detroit doesn't want to see a shootout, but tackling in the secondary was a preseason issue and the Saints have a slew of receivers who make plays after the catch. That includes RB Reggie Bush, who also needs to be a factor on the ground with Pierre Thomas (sprained right knee) unlikely to play. FAST FACTS: Stafford will be the first rookie quarterback to start Week 1 for the Lions since Greg Landry in 1968. ... The Saints led the NFL with an average of 410.7 total yards per game in 2008.

Personnel News

Lions:
  • G Stephen Peterman did not practice Thursday because of an undisclosed injury. Coach Jim Schwartz declined to comment on injuries.
  • G Manny Ramirez filled in for Stephen Peterman at right guard Thursday. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Ramirez was still pushing Daniel Loper at left guard, however.
  • WR Yamon Figurs left practice early Thursday because of an apparent finger injury.
  • K Jason Hanson looked good booting field goals again Thursday. It remains unclear whether Hanson will also handle kickoffs Sunday, but it appears more likely he will. The Lions have yet to sign another kicker.
  • DT Grady Jackson did not practice Thursday. He was listed as limited Wednesday because of a knee problem. He often has not practiced since having knee surgery early in the offseason, but that doesn't necessarily mean he won't play Sunday.
  • CB Phillip Buchanon was listed as limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a neck injury, but he is not expected to be limited in the game.
  • WR Dennis Northcutt was listed as limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a hand injury, but he is not expected to be limited in the game.
  • DE Jason Hunter was listed as limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a rib injury, but he is not expected to be limited in the game. Saints:
  • LT Jammal Brown, who had sports hernia surgery on Aug. 21, will undergo hip surgery on Friday and is expected to be out six weeks.
  • RB Pierre Thomas was held out of practice with a sprained right knee again on Thursday and will likely miss Sunday's game with the Detroit Lions.
  • TE Darnell Dinkins did not work Thursday because of a left foot injury and will probably be inactive Sunday.
  • FS Usama Young, who injured his left shoulder against Oakland on Aug. 29, had full participation in practice again Thursday.
  • TE David Thomas, who joined the Saints on Monday, is trying to get up to speed on the offense with Darnell Dinkins likely to miss Sunday's game.

    Inside the Camps

    Lions: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford knows the New Orleans Saints are coming to get him in the season opener Sunday. But he doesn't seem afraid, and if the coaches didn't think he was up to the challenge, they wouldn't have named him the starter. The Saints seem to be licking their chops, judging by some comments in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Defensive end Jeff Charleston called Stafford "fresh meat." Defensive end Bobby McCray said it would be "very important that we break his spirit early." Stafford chuckled at that. "I'm sure I'll get that probably all year, so I might as well get used to it," Stafford said. "Football is football. That's going to happen. People are going to talk. So that's fine. It makes it fun." McCray told the Times-Picayune he was sure the Lions wouldn't give Stafford "too much to handle in his first game." Stafford essentially shrugged. He said he didn't think the Lions had limited the playbook for him. "I feel like we're going into the game with a lot of stuff - a lot of plays, a lot of formations, checks," Stafford said. "I'm prepared for that." Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Stafford had "made significant strides in his grasp of the offense in a short period of time," from his first practice of rookie minicamp through the exhibition finale. He said Stafford also was consistent in practice, not up one day and down the next like a lot of rookies. Quarterbacks are taught not to throw certain passes against certain coverages. Linehan said Stafford doesn't screw that up. "You don't get that from him," Linehan said. "He knows the design of the play. Based on coverage, he knows where the ball should go. He knows those things. Is he perfect yet? No. Has he made a few mistakes along the way? Yeah. But every quarterback has." Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove said he preferred playing a rookie than a veteran like Daunte Culpepper, because "with a rookie you can do some different things to try to get him rattled and get him looking at the rush, instead of looking downfield." Asked about the Saints trying to rattle him or break his spirit, Stafford said: "Well, I figure that's probably every defense's philosophy is to try to do that - push the pocket and try to make the quarterback feel uncomfortable. That's the defense's job. It's my job to hang in there and make some throws down the field." Saints: After missing 10 of the last 20 regular-season games with knee problems and being sidelined for the last three preseason games because of a strained calf, Saints running back Reggie Bush is ready to go. Bush pronounced himself fit Wednesday for the Saints' season opener on Sunday against the Detroit Lions in the Superdome -- ready to quiet his critics and everyone else who thinks he can't be a No. 1 halfback. "I feel like I'm ready to go 100 percent," said Bush, who has played all 16 games in a season just once in his three-year NFL career. "We've had a lot of rest time. Even though I haven't played as much in the preseason, I'm making up for the repetitions in practice. "I'm really anxious," he added. "It's been a long time coming since I've been injured, and I'm anxious to get back out on the field. I just want to get back to playing football." That's certainly good news for Saints coach Sean Payton and bad news for Lions first-year coach Jim Schwartz, who said Wednesday that coming up with a game plan to stop the multidimensional Bush can cause sleepless nights. Bush was having a solid season in 2008 before he went down with a torn meniscus in his left knee, which occurred while returning a punt against the Carolina Panthers. To that point, he had piled up 660 total yards and had scored eight touchdowns -- three on punt returns. Bush said he just wants to be effective when he gets out on the field again. "I want to make plays and get my team in good situations -- whether it's punt returns, or scoring on punt returns, or running the ball, or receiving," he said. "It's about being effective out there, being a leader and making plays. "It feels really good just to be able to go in there feeling fresh and focused and ready to go. It feels real good." PREDICTION: Saints 27-16
  • Tagged: Lions, Saints, Dennis Northcutt, Jason Hanson, Grady Jackson, Daunte Culpepper, Phillip Buchanon, Darnell Dinkins, Anthony Hargrove, Stephen Peterman, Bobby McCray, Jabari Greer, Jammal Brown, Daniel Loper, David Thomas, Reggie Bush, Jason Hunter, Usama Young, Yamon Figurs, Manny Ramirez, Calvin Johnson, Jeff Charleston, Pierre Thomas, Tracy Porter, Kevin Smith, Matthew Stafford

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