Coming off a long break after a disappointing 29-22 loss to the banged-up Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving, the Detroit Lions return and, this time, are on the road against the New Orleans Saints. Detroit wasn’t the only team to disappoint their fans last week as the Saints couldn’t hold onto their NFC South division lead after their loss to the Atlanta Falcons ,24-15. The Saints are now tied for first place in the division but don’t have the tiebreaker. The NFC South appears to be the worst division in the NFL, with the Falcons and Saints having losing records but at the top of the division.
Like the Packers heading into the game last week, the injuries are piling up for the Saints. It’s not as bad as Green Bay, but they are missing starters and players at essential positions at a crucial point in the season. In the game against the Falcons alone, two starting wide receivers, Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, left and didn’t return. More on that in a bit.
Detroit was supposed to beat Green Bay with how injured the Packers were, but the Lions made multiple mistakes and played one of their worst games so far this season. That loss shows it doesn’t matter how many injuries a team has; they can still win the game, so the Lions shouldn’t overlook the Saints this week. Let’s breakdown the New Orleans Saints in the Detroit Lions’ Week 13 scouting report.
2023 New Orleans Saints
2023 season thus far (5-6)
Week 1: Win against Tennessee Titans 16-15
Week 2: Win against Carolina Panthers 20-17
Week 3: Loss against Green Bay Packers 18-17
Week 4: Loss against Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-9
Week 5: Win against New England Patriots 34-0
Week 6: Loss against Houston Texans 20-13
Week 7: Loss against Jacksonville Jaguars 31-24
Week 8: Win against Indianapolis Colts 38-27
Week 9: Win against Chicago Bears 24-17
Week 10: Loss against Minnesota Vikings 27-19
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Loss against Atlanta Falcons 24-15
- 18th in points scored, 9th in points allowed
- 18th in DVOA
- 20th in offensive DVOA (22nd in pass DVOA, 10th in run DVOA)
- 13th in defensive DVOA (11th pass DVOA, 22nd in run DVOA)
- 13th in special teams DVOA
The Saints were the favorites to win the division before the season began. The team signed quarterback Derek Carr in the offseason to be the team’s next franchise quarterback and lead this team back to the playoffs. So far, things are not working out like they wanted to.
Carr has struggled a bit, with 2,535 yards, 10 touchdowns, and five interceptions this year. He also has been banged up, as he has dealt with an AC joint sprain, concussion, and shoulder injury that has made him leave a few games early. When Carr has been on the sidelines with those injuries, Jameis Winston has stepped in. It’s clear why Carr is the starter. Winston has thrown for 223 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in the four games he’s played in. The Saints have also lost both games Winston had to play a significant role in. They blew a 17-point lead against the Packers in Week 3—though that is more on the defense than Winston. Winston also lost to the Vikings in Week 10, where the backup quarterback threw two interceptions. The team needs Carr to stay healthy, as without him, the offense is less explosive, and the passing game suffers.
The team was already without running back Alvin Kamara for the first three games due to suspension, and he has yet to jump off the screen, either. He only has 457 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but he has 54 catches for 355 yards and a touchdown through the air, so he is still a weapon in the passing game. The passing game has been the primary way this team moves the football. But with their starting wide receivers—Olave, Shaheed, and Michael Thomas—injured, the team needs more depth to overcome that.
Out of the 11 games this season, Olave has played in the most games with nine, then Thomas with seven, and Shaheed with five. Thomas just got put on IR last week, so he is out for at least the next three games. Shaheed and Olave left the game last week with injuries.
This team is lucky it plays in a weak division; if they were in the NFC North, they would be in third place and not tied for first. With the season winding down—and after losing the top spot in the NFC South last week—the pressure is on them to step it up and try to lock the division up. It starts with the Lions game this week, and the Saints will need to play their best football if they want to win.
Key players ruled out: CB Marshon Lattimore (IR/ankle), WR Michael Thomas (IR/knee), G Trai Turner (IR/quad), RB Eno Benjamin (IR/Achilles)
Key players to monitor: WR Chris Olave (concussion), WR Rashid Shaheed (thigh), RB Jamaal Williams (arm), DE Cameron Jordan (ankle), RB Kendre Miller (ankle)
Heading into the Atlanta game last week, the Saints put Lattimore and Thomas on IR, knocking them out for the next four weeks. During the game against the Falcons, Olave and Shaheed left the game with injuries and didn’t return, leaving them extremely thin at wide receiver. They weren’t the only offensive players banged up, as Williams would leave the game with an injury, and the team had already ruled out third-string running back Kendre Miller before the game started. That left just starting Kamara as the only healthy back on the field.
The only injury on the defensive side was Jordan, which is a big one for the defensive line. The team needs help to stop the run, and taking away their best defensive lineman makes that job more difficult.
Biggest strength: Pass defense
The good thing for the Saints in this game is they have a solid secondary the Lions have to match up against. The Saints have the seventh-best passing defense in the NFL, allowing 2,159 yards and 14 touchdowns, and they have the second-most interceptions in the NFL with 14. Lions quarterback Jared Goff has been a turnover machine the past two weeks, with three interceptions against the Bears and three fumbles against the Packers. If this Saints secondary can get help from the defensive front seven, they could get a pick or two on Goff.
Two players have stepped up in the secondary this season. The first is safety Tyrann Mathieu. At 31 years old, he is still making plays and keeping this defense together. This season, he has 48 tackles, six pass deflections, and three interceptions (with one returned for a touchdown). Against the Falcons last week, he kept the team in the game with two interceptions:
The other player is cornerback Paulson Adebo. He has 40 tackles, a team-high four interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries this season. He has also done that in nine games this season, as he missed two due to hamstring injuries. He will need to step up in Lattimore’s absence, and going up against the Lions wide receivers will take a lot of work. The Lions are sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 3,075 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions, so it will be a big matchup for both teams.
Biggest weakness: Rushing offense/defense
Overall, this one was hard to pin down, so I decided to take both sides of the ground game here for the Saints. Not only does this team struggle to stop the run, they struggle to get the run going for them. They have allowed the 11th most rushing yards in the NFL with 1,364 and seven touchdowns. The bad thing for them this week is that the Lions are the fifth-best rushing team in the NFL, with 1,506 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Saints won’t be able to match the Lions on the ground, though, as they are the 20th in the NFL with 1,148 yards and seven touchdowns. The Lions also have the fifth-best rush defense in the league, with only 1,004 yards and eight touchdowns allowed this season. Plus, if Williams and Miller miss any time, that leaves Kamara as the lone running back on the roster unless they call up Jordan Mims from the practice squad or sign a free agent.
Overall, when it comes to anything on the ground, this team struggles in every aspect of it. If the Saints are without a running back or two, I could see their offensive weapon in quarterback Taysom Hill get carries in the backfield. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 57 carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns. He can also catch, too, as he has 24 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown. Either way, the Saints are not marching in, and against the Lions, it will be an uphill battle.
Key matchup: Lions offensive line vs. Saints defensive line
The Lions offensive line will need to rebound in a big way against the Saints defensive line after the Packers humbled them last week. Luckily for Detroit, the Saints defensive line isn’t the best, and they could be out their best player (Jordan). New Orleans has the second-fewest amount of sacks in the NFL with just 18.
The main thing to watch in this matchup is how the Saints can do against the Lions’ rushing attack. Detroit has one of the best offensive lines in the league and a top-five ground attack with a two-headed monster in the backfield with running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. Those two should give Saints fans a flashback to when they had Mark Ingram paired with Kamara.
If the Lions can dominate the trenches, their run game should be able to take over and dominate this game. The Saints only have Jordan as their primary defensive line playmaker, and if the Lions can handle him, it should be an easy game for them. Detroit also must get healthy on that line, as left guard Jonah Jackson has missed three consecutive games. Center Frank Ragnow left Thursday’s game but would return, so he could be someone to watch heading into Sunday.
Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 4