It’s Week 13, and we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Chris of Pride of Detroit answers 5 quick questions about the upcoming matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Tigers:
The Lions come into this matchup in first place in the NFC North, yet 5-point underdogs to the third place (in the NFC South) New Orleans Saints. Do you think this line is fair, or did Vegas get it wrong?
Oh boy, my bookie sense is tingling. Okay. Five is fair, but five is also a fairly dirty number. I don't like betting fives. Weird stuff has to happen to land you around that no-man's land margin. Sure enough, early money's come in and taken the line up to 6, at which point I think we could start to see some money on the Lions. Hard to tell, the gambling is still young.
Either way, what's being declared here is a touchdown winning it, which I think works if you're coming from the assumption of a shootout on the winds. And that's perfectly fine! The Saints put up close to a fiftyburger on the Rams, who for some reason gets credit for having a good defense or whatever. The Lions, meanwhile, boast an offense that is unpredictable, usually keeps pace in late games; but the defense is a paper tiger set next to a space heater for four hours. It's all the makings of a forecast where many will try to ride the over, which means touchdowns, which means a wider margin of victory. In that sense we're talking home field plus a few bones for the higher score. I think I'm fine with that. The Lions have only gone on the road twice in the past seven games, and in public eyes the Superdome is "always a tough place to play."
It's no surprise this game also boasts the highest total this weekend (currently 53.5).
Detroit currently has the 15th ranked defense in the NFL, but have had the benefit of playing the Vikings twice, the Rams, and the Texans. That's four games against the worst three offenses in the league. What kind of challenges will the top overall offense in the Saints present?
Proclaiming Detroit's defense to exist within the top half of the NFL is an illusion, a grand mirage of palaces and djinni you might find in your child's sandbox after dropping acid. He's screaming at you, “Daddy, why are you talking like that?! Daddy, what's wrong with your eyes?! Daddy, what does that pentagram mean?” But you're not going to listen to him; what has that flying cat's head ever done for you anyway?
DVOA has a better feel for where the Lions defense stands: 31st (18.4%). I don't care that they've held the past five opponents to 20 points or fewer. They're getting healthy at a good time, but the structural problems remain when it comes to defending against the mid-range pass. Watch any tight end - watch Eddie Royal! - tear this thing apart. The linebackers struggle in tackling and coverage, and the flaw generally lies there. Recently, the defensive line play has struggled, but I don't expect that to continue for too long.
Sticking with defense, what Lions defensive player to you expect to make the biggest impact this game?
The hero Lions fans expect on the defense is cornerback Darius Slay, who sealed the Eagles and Vikings games with late interceptions. Big Play Slay was quiet last year as he worked to become something more of a shutdown corner, and he got broke off accordingly before this season began. Injury kept him out and sent the whole secondary to hell, but his return has helped keep the worst sins of this Lions defense at bay.
Slay does not stick to one side of the field or even necessarily cover just one receiver, but he is the centerpiece to a Lions backfield to stop deep threats. Seeing as Drew Brees has had a few games with a few interceptions to offer (I have him in fantasy, I will not be denied my wrath at this) I expect that Slay might be able to get a takeaway, something the Lions struggled to rack up on a box score for a while.
Now on the other side of the ball, outside of QB Matthew Stafford, which offensive player do you expect to have a big game?
Human swiss army knife Theo Riddick has been forced to do a little bit of everything for the Lions thanks to Ameer Abdullah's injury. I don't think I've seen him rush as much as he has this year, and I watched him play at Notre Dame as well. He really shines when he's receiving though, and, in the Lions offense, having a back that can make quick short yardage passes is exceptional. He's a bit of a cry from leading the league in receptions last year, but that happens when he's been pushed into a top rushing back position, a role he's never had, never been built for and quite honestly should never be doing.
Also might want to put money on Anquan Boldin, the resident human cyborg that travels time to save John Connor. Every game he's liable for a touchdown and Stafford's got a pretty heavy reliance on him in checkdowns and dump-off situations. Also much like Arnold Schwarzenegger I bet he cuts a pretty good shot while walking menacingly to pounding industrial drums.
Any predictions for the game? A breakout game for a lesser-known-player or a bold prediction? What about the final score?
I think it's pretty bold to make no prediction. In a world of prognostication, picks, Swamis and preachers there's no hope to become accountable for your football forecasting. All these morons on ESPN, CBS, Fox and the rest can say whatever the hell they want. Do you remember what Boomer Esiason said three weeks ago? Of course you don't, because to remember what a moron like Boomer says is to invite madness and despair into your heart. To go before the world and divine the outcome of football games is to be a capering jester, a clown that dances on command; your damnation is to be forgotten immediately, a waste of time for everyone. There is no lasting impression. Boomer Esiason sucks at being a clown even.
Moreover, there is no hope to understand a Lions team that has defied predication all year. I resisted the notion that Stafford had become this top tier quarterback and he made all these comebacks. I resisted the idea that all these comebacks would be a viable way to win, but here we are at the top of the division going into December. I resist now this notion that the Lions defense is somehow anything more than garbage. I resist it all, and I am still swept away each time. I don't know anymore. I welcome this ignorance.
Thank-you, Chris, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Chris and the work his guys are doing over at Pride of Detroit. You can follow them on Twitter @PrideofDetroit. You can follow Chris on Twitter @DetroitSouthern, and of course you can always follow me @dunnellz.