Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints: Keys to the Game

Stop the Run

In an effort to build Matt Stafford's confidence and ease him into the league, the Lions are going to want to put as little pressure on their unproven, inexperienced new quarterback as possible. This means handing it off a lot. Kevin Smith should be seeing the bulk of these carries. If the Saints can neutralize Smith and the Lions on the ground, they'll put all the pressure on Stafford and force him to make plays and win it through the air; a good position for the Saints to be in. 

 

Score Early

Putting points on the board quickly and forcing the Lions to play from behind will accomplish the same goal as stopping the run: Putting the game in the inexperienced hands of Matt Stafford. I have the utmost faith that Drew Brees and the Saints offense will be able to pick apart the Lions defense, but the key will be doing it early. For reference, a good example of this would be their performance against Oakland in week three of the pre-season. 

 

Knock 'Em the %&$# Out!

If all goes well and the Saints accomplish the one-two punch of stopping the run and scoring early, listed above, they can finish the job and go for the knockout by doing exactly that to Matt Stafford. The rookie quarterback has only played pre-season games thus far and has no idea what to expect now that the score actually counts. We all remember Gregg Williams' famous quote from the off-season and I certainly expect to finally see the full force of his attack style blitz. The delayed suspensions of Charles Grant and Will Smith could be the worst news Matt Stafford has gotten all week.

 

Players to Watch

Darren SharperNobody on the Saints defense knows the Lions better than Darren Sharper, the former Viking who had to play Detroit twice a year. Sharper has 11 career interceptions against the Lions, his most against any team. Being such an integral part of Gregg Williams' system, I would expect the veteran to play a big role on Sunday. 

 

Mike BellMike Bell looked amazing during pre-season but let's be real...that was one game. With Pierre Thomas likely out for the game, Bell should be seeing significant time and this will be his big chance to prove he's not just a flash in the pan. If the Saints can grab a healthy lead early, they'll want to keep the ball on the ground and control the clock. In that situation, it will be crucial for Bell to grind it out and continue getting first downs.  

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