As per usual we've got a little question and answer series to share with the opposition's SB Nation blogger as we get closer to kickoff this Wild Card weekend.
This week that would be Sean Yuille from SB Nation's Pride of Detroit. Make the jump to read Sean's answers to my questions and check out Pride of Detroit for my answers to his. Be sure to check out his final note on the last question. I think you'll enjoy.
I'd like to thank Sean from taking time to answer my questions, even though he was tied up this week drinking on Bourbon St. and enjoying all that New Orleans has to offer.
Dave Cariello: Ndamukong Suh missed the first matchup between the Saints and Lions because he was serving a suspension. How much does his mere presence change things?
Sean Yuille: Having Suh this time around will be a big difference for the Lions defense. Although Suh hasn't shown up on the boxscore as much as his rookie season, he does a lot of things that aren't tracked statistically. For example, when offenses double team him to keep him contained, a lot of room is opened up for his fellow defensive linemen. In that regard, having Suh around will give other defenders more opportunities, and in general it'll help the rotation. In the first meeting, Nick Fairley was a force on the D-line in the first quarter, but he was too banged up to do a whole lot later in the game. With Suh around (and Fairley healthier), the rotation will be much better for the Lions.
Dave: What do you think will be the most important matchup in this game?
Sean: Without a doubt, it is the Lions secondary vs. Drew Brees. It's a given that Brees is going to put up a lot of yards, but if the Lions can contain him, they will have a chance to win. In the first meeting, despite playing extremely poorly at times, the Lions did a good enough job defensively to stay in the game. This time around, if the Lions can at least keep Brees under control and limit how many big plays they give up, they should be able keep the score close.
Dave: The last time these two teams met, the Lions were a bit undisciplined and it cost them. What have they done to correct the problem?
Sean: Unfortunately, penalties are still an issue, although moronic personal fouls like we saw against the Saints haven't been as common. Jim Schwartz made it clear after that game that there would be zero tolerance for those kinds of penalties, and I do think it has helped in limiting them. It does seem like the Lions get called for just about everything else anytime it's close, though. I think that stems from their reputation, and unfortunately I don't think there's much they can do at this point to change that.
Dave: Do you think Matthew Stafford is underrated and overlooked by other fans and the media?
Sean: I don't think Stafford has gotten the recognition he deserves for what he did this season, but that's mainly because guys like Drew Brees and Tom Brady also had amazing seasons. Stafford broke just about every Lions passing record and had the fifth most passing yards in a single season in NFL history. In a normal year, he probably would have gotten more publicity for it. Since 2011 was so unusual in terms of how much offense there was across the league, I think his performance on a national level didn't seem as special as it really was.
Dave: What chance do you give the Lions against a very hot Saints team at home? Care to make a prediction?
Sean: I don't think the Lions will win, but it wouldn't surprise me if they pull off the upset. As badly as they played and as shorthanded as they were the first time in New Orleans this season, the Lions had a chance to tie things up in the second half. It may have been a two-score game in the end, but they played pretty well all things considered. This time around, with a full complement starters, I think the Lions will give the Saints all they can handle, and I think it will be a much closer game than most of the pundits think.
(Side note: If the Lions do fail to pull off the upset, I think the Saints will make another run at the Super Bowl this season. Obviously I want the Lions to win on Saturday, but I will have no trouble rooting for you guys if the Lions are eliminated. I just spent a few days in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, and the people there couldn't have been nicer. In general it was a lot of fun, and it was nice to see Jared Allen proved wrong yet again.)