Lions-Saints Preview

There may not be many short-term benefits on the table when the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints meet Monday night, but consequences remain - largely as to how their rosters and coaching staffs will shake out in 2016.

The last-place teams meet in a prime-time game devoid of playoff implications in New Orleans.

Last week's 21-14 loss at St. Louis officially ousted Detroit (4-9) from postseason contention. With general manager Martin Mayhew having already been shown the door in early November, coach Jim Caldwell's seat gets warmer with every loss.

The Lions need to run the table to avoid an 11th season since 2001 with six wins or fewer.

''They're still keeping score in this game and we have guys that are professionals,'' Caldwell said. ''With the right kind of people that know how to approach the game, you'll see them come out and fight with the same kind of energy that they always do.''

The Lions opened 0-5, the same number of losses they held as a wild-card team a year ago. The energy from a brief resurgence was sapped with a stunner against Green Bay on Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary on Dec. 3 and the loss to the Rams, which dropped Detroit to 1-5 on the road.

Caldwell's team should at least have a decent chance to end on a high note, however, with its final three games against sub-.500 New Orleans, San Francisco and Chicago.

Matthew Stafford has thrown nine touchdowns - four to Calvin Johnson - and just one interception over his past three games, and there should be ample opportunity to beef up those numbers against the Saints (5-8).

Opposing offenses have diced New Orleans for 3,624 passing yards and a league-high 36 touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks hold a 114.2 passer rating against the Saints while throwing just six interceptions.

Stafford has thrown eight picks and six TDs while losing three of four games against New Orleans, including a wild-card contest in 2012. But he rallied the Lions from 13 down with less than four minutes left last season at Ford Field in a 24-23 win.

New Orleans allowed just 176 yards and one score through the air last week when it snapped a four-game losing streak with a 24-17 victory at Tampa Bay.

The Saints surrendered just 291 total yards to the Buccaneers, another season low for an opponent, after allowing an average of 463.0 the previous four weeks.

In place of the injured Mark Ingram, Tim Hightower ran for 85 yards and a touchdown in his first start since 2011. Though he finished with just 36 receiving yards, Marques Colston grabbed two difficult touchdown passes - just his second and third of the season and first multi-TD game since Dec. 8, 2013.

After combining for 20 points in consecutive losses to close November, the Saints have scored 62 the last two weeks.

Hightower was out of the NFL for three years after complications from a serious knee injury, and he combined for just 12 carries and 48 yards in limited action this season before breaking out against Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old carried the ball 28 times, six more than Ingram's highest total before he landed on injured reserve last week with a shoulder injury.

Hightower may have more on the line down the stretch as he tries to prove he still has a place in the league, but his mind is focused solely on Detroit.

''To even think of it as a three-game season for me would be a disservice to my team,'' Hightower said. ''What I can control is how I prepare for this next game and when that time comes, do everything I can to give my team a chance to win. ... I'll let the other things sort out when they do.''

Detroit placed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on injured reserve this week after he tore his ACL against St. Louis. He finished with career lows in receptions (7) and receiving yards (67) in eight games.

That should mean more targets for Eric Ebron, who was the team's first-round pick last season.

"I get paid to pay these three games, and I'm going to go out there and try to earn every penny I get,'' Ebron said. ''Now we've got people out here playing to stay. Everybody has something to play for.''

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