Eyeing Up the Enemy: Detroit Lions

Bob Rose

The New Orleans Saints travel to face the Detroit Lions in Week Four of the 2020 NFL season. It will be the 27th meeting between the two franchises, with New Orleans holding a 13-12-1 advantage in the series. The Saints are only 3-7-1 in road matchups against the Lions however, although they have outscored them 215-212 in those eleven meetings and have split their last six outings in Detroit. New Orleans also won the last game between these two, a 52-38 victory at home on 10/15/17.

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Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions hope for a significant move up in the NFC North standings in 2020 after losing nine consecutive games to end last season. Especially with a return to health of quarterback Matthew Stafford and several big offseason additions. Coach Matt Patricia enters his third year in charge of one of only four NFL teams to have never made it to the Super Bowl. Here's a look at some of the offseason changes that the Saints Week Four opponent underwent.

DETROIT LIONS

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2019 Record: 3-12-1 (4th; NFC North)

Head Coach: Matt Patricia (3rd year; 9-22-1 record)

2019 Offensive Statistics

  • 21.3 points/game (18th in the NFL)
  • Total Yards = 17th
  • Passing Yards = 10th
  • Rushing Yards = 21st

2019 Defensive Statistics

  • 26.4 points/game (26th)
  • Total Yards = 31st
  • Passing Yards = 32nd
  • Rushing Yards = 21st

Offseason Losses: Logan Thomas (TE), Graham Glasgow (G), Damon Harrison (DT), A'Shawn Robinson (DT), Darius Slay (CB), Rashaan Melvin (CB)

Offseason Additions: Geronimo Allison (WR), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (T), Danny Shelton (DT), Nick Williams (DT), Jamie Collins (LB), Reggie Ragland (LB), Elijah Lee (LB), Desmond Trufant (CB), Jayron Kearse (S), Duron Harmon (S), Jeff Okudah (CB-Rookie), D'Andre Swift (RB-Rookie), Julian Okwara (DE-Rookie), Jonah Jackson (G-Rookie), Logan Stenberg (G-Rookie), Quintez Cephus (WR-Rookie)

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Oct 15, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) catches a pass ahead of New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Lions 52-38. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY

Stafford returns after missing the last half of the season with a back injury. Protecting their 32-Yr old quarterback is crucial, and the Lions added a lineman in free agency and two more in the draft to offset the free agent loss of two starters. Stafford has a top quality wideout in four year vet Kenny Golladay, who leads an underrated group of targets in Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, and last year's top draft pick tight end T.J. Hockenson. Detroit's anemic running game looks to improve with the addition of 2nd round draft choice Swift, who is a dangerous all-purpose threat capable of shouldering the running load and giving much-needed balance to the offense.

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Oct 15, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) and cornerback Quandre Diggs (28) tackle New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Patricia was a highly respected defensive coach during his last twelve years as an assistant with the Patriots but his Lions had one of the league's worst defenses last year. An offseason defensive purge brought in three of Patricia's former New England defenders. The Pro Bowler Collins will team with promising end Trey Flowers and linebacker Jarrad Davis to boost a pass rush that sacked opposing quarterbacks only 28 times last year. The Lions drafted the top cornerback available in Okudah with the 3rd overall selection and added another accomplished corner with Trufant in free agency to counter the loss of Slay. Safeties Kearse and Huron, another former Patriot, completed the makeover in a secondary that intercepted just 7 passes.

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Oct 15, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans, one of the league's prohibitive Super Bowl favorites, should be heavily favored in this contest despite being on the road. New Orleans must avoid being tripped up by overlooking the Lions in this type of matchup, or overlooking the Lions.  The Saints offensive weapons look like they could overwhelm the remade Detroit defense on paper but must protect Drew Brees and maintain balance. Wideouts Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and tight end Jared Cook will be a significant challenge for the revamped Detroit secondary while running back Alvin Kamara will threaten the Lions all over the field.

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Oct 15, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws as New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) pressures during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Lions 52-38. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans will look to bring heavy pressure on Stafford against a Detroit line that allowed 43 sacks last season. The Saints have a deep defensive line led by stars such as ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport along with tackles Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata that force quarterbacks into mistakes. New Orleans cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins are an elite tandem but the Saints secondary must guard against big plays from the strong-armed Stafford and his underrated receivers. The Saints defensive line must also control the line of scrimmage to minimize Detroit's run game, allowing All-Pro Demario Davis and the linebackers to more easily neutralize the rookie back Swift.

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Oct 15, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) breaks up a pass to Detroit Lions wide receiver T.J. Jones (13) during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees is 5-3 against the Lions as the Saints quarterback, but just 1-1 against them on the road. Brees has eclipsed 300 yards passing in seven of eight games against Detroit but the New Orleans defense has also had a difficult time containing Stafford. New Orleans has the better defensive personnel of the two teams and a better offensive line to protect it’s passer. In the type of game that looks easily winnable for the Saints on paper before the season, New Orleans must protect against potentially overlooking a lesser opponent to notch a key conference victory. 

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