Drew Brees and Matt Stafford are definitely the most valuable players on both their teams. But I have a feeling this week’s contest in the Superdome will be decided by kicks, not throws. The Saints’ kicker Will Lutz and the Lion’s Matt Prater have two of the strongest legs in the league. With no wind, no extreme temperatures, and a turf surface, the Superdome provides the perfect setting for a kicker’s dual.
The Lions and Saints have both relied on their kickers to finish close games this season. After missing a potential game winning 61 yard field goal in week 1 against the Oakland Raiders, Lutz came through big time in week 6 against the Carolina Panthers by nailing a game winning 52 yard field goal in the final minutes of regulation. Just last week, Prater made kicks from 48 and 40 yards to tie and later beat the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving Day.
Both kickers have been in high pressure situations, though Prater, at age 32, has several more seasons and high pressure kicks under his belt. While playing in Denver in 2013, Prater set the NFL record for field goal distance (64 yards). The 43 year old record was previously held by the Saints’ own Tom Dempsey who booted a 63 yard field goal as time expired to beat the very same Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium on December 8, 1970.
Throughout this season, Prater has been extremely reliable while currently boasting an 87.5% success rate on his kicks. He’s 21 of 24 on field goal attempts and 22 of 24 on extra point attempts. He’s made 9 field goals between 40 and 49 yards, and another 4 beyond 50 yards, with the longest being 58 yards.
Prater has been so automatic from every distance this year, Lion’s safety Glover Quin expects only one result. “Good, good. I don’t have any question, I can go in the locker room. Game over. Good,’’ Quin said. “Yeah, I watch it’s not like I don’t have to watch, it’s a beauty. I have zero nerves at all. Really for me, I be feeling like, regardless of the distance, I feel if we had to I would kick a 65-yarder with him. He hit on 64. I believe if we had to kick a 65-yarder I believe Prater would hit it, no doubt in my mind.’’
Lutz has not been as automatic. Throughout the season , he’s made 72.7% of his kicks. He’s 16 of 22 on field goal attempts. He’s made 4 from between 40 and 49 yards, and another 3 from beyond 50 yards, with the longest being 57 yards.
Though I’ve come to shutter for extra points attempts following the Denver debacle, I was surprised to see that Lutz has only missed one (one less than Prater) all season. With Brees lighting up the scoreboard this season, Luts has made a whopping 38 of 39 extra point attempts. I guess I need to lighten up.
The Lions and Saints both have prolific offenses with capable passers that can put 6 points up at any time. I expect lots of extra point attempts this Sunday, but something tells me this game comes down to a field goal, and both teams have the leg to pull off a much needed win.