Three questions that will determine Saints vs. Lions

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

Derick E. Hingle/Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Who puts points on the board for both the Saints and the Lions?

Huge question marks surround both teams’ match up nightmare receiving threats: Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (ankle) and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham (shoulder). It’s likely both teams will be without the help of their most productive receiving weapons. The Lions are about to find out whether new addition Golden Tate can handle being the primary target. The Saints, meanwhile, are desperately waiting for a deep threat receiver to emerge and fill the shoes of Devery Henderson. Behind closed doors, the Saints want to get Kenny Stills more involved, but his lack of ability to block is holding him back. At least so far, Stills is a specialty weapon. When Stills comes in on a specific down, opposing defenses know exactly why he’s there. Head coach Sean Payton likes what he’s seen out of Stills lately though and wants to get the second-year player a larger role, now that he’s healthy.

Can the Saints get the ground game going versus Detroit’s Defense?

New Orleans wants and needs continue to build on a blossoming and promising ground attack, especially with Graham likely down and Mark Ingram back in the fold. This is Ingram’s first time game back in Michigan as an NFL player, and he wants to shine for those who supported him during his high school days in Flint, MI. The Lions’ defense has other ideas though. Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson will have to kickinto a higher gear to find success versus one of the most elite defenses in the league this year.  The Lions defense go into Sunday’s clash leading the NFL in several defensive categories, including scoring and total defense.

Lions 2014 Defense

     Opp Points/Gm                     13.7         1st

 

     Opp Total Yds/Gm               270.7           1st

 

     Opp Rush Yds/Gm               73.5            2nd (Buf, 67.5)

 

     Opp Pass Yds/Gm                197.2            1st

 

     Opp 3rd Down Pct               31.3%        2nd (Ind, 29.7%)

 

     Sacks                                   20                1st

Detroit’s defense has allowed opponents to score just 82 points though the first six weeks of the season. That is the franchise’s fewest points allowed through six games in a season since 1970 (also 82). Their fewest allowed through seven games since 1970 is 98 in 1976.

Can the Saints overcome their road woes?

The Black and Gold is the only team in the NFL that is unbeaten at home this season, but winless on the road. A victory Sunday would allow the team to shake off a stereotype that’s growing more burdensome with every road trip. The Saints are fresh off their bye week and would love to start the second part of their season with a win. History is certainly on their side, even if the odds makers aren’t. New Orleans boasts the second-longest active streak of wins after the bye week in the NFL.

Win streaks after bye week

Giants                     6

Steelers                    6

Saints                      5

Looking back at the past 2 seasons, the Saints are unbeaten at home, but just 3-8 on the road, averaging 13 points per game less on the road than in the Superdome.

Saints in Home vs. Road Games, Since 2013                                  

                                   Home             Road

 

W-L                               10-0             3-8

 

Points/Gm                     32.9           19.7 (217)