With a 2.5 game lead in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions enter this final six-game game stretch with four on the road. First up is a contest down in New Orleans against a Saints team that’s firmly entrenched in a divisional race of their own. Despite splitting the last two games, the Lions are in a bit of a tailspin considering their hot start and the teams they’ve played the past two weeks. But the Saints, they’re struggling in their own right as well, dropping their last two games including last week’s divisional loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
As always, we would never pass up the opportunity to get some intel from the opponent’s perspective. Ahead of this Week 13 matchup between Detroit and New Orleans, we called on Luke Hubbard from our sister site Canal Street Chronicles to give us some insight into who this Saints team is on both sides of the ball, how Derek Carr and the running game aren’t quite meeting expectations, and how to bet (via DraftKings Sportsbook) this NFC matchup.
After looking at some of the numbers for the Saints offense–specifically where they rank in their ability to generate big plays–is it fair to say Carr has brought stability to the offense in New Orleans at the expense of explosive plays?
If you look at Carr’s passing numbers, his 2,500 passing yards may seem like he’s not doing too bad, but when you watch him play every Sunday you realize he actually just isn’t that good. There are a lot of things wrong with this offense, so it isn’t 100% his fault, but his inability to make big plays mixed with his poor red zone play has really hampered this offense. He’s been dealing with a shoulder injury, so I think that may be playing a factor in his inability to throw the ball down field, but if he’s that injured I think he should just sit out for a few games.
As of right now, this offense has no stability or consistency whatsoever. They’ve had weeks where they look like they’re figuring it out, then next week they’ll lay an egg. It’s very frustrating to watch and there needs to be some major changes this offseason if they want it to improve.
The Saints offensive line boasts some pretty good metrics in the run game (8th in DVOA’s adjusted line yards, 15th in ESPN’s run block win rate), but New Orleans is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry (t-26th). Have the Saints running backs just been leaving a lot of meat on the bone?
I’m honestly shocked to see that the Saints offensive line ranks that high in those metrics. From a naked eye, it seems like they get next to no push in the run game, but I definitely don’t think they deserve all the blame. The running backs, Alvin Kamara included, haven’t been able to do what they normally do. Kamara has been struggling for the past couple seasons to make guys miss and get yards after contact (which was his biggest strength), Jamaal Williams hasn’t been the same lower your shoulder and run over people runner he was in Detroit, and Kendre Miller just hasn’t been healthy. Despite what the stats say, I don’t think the offensive line has been that good in the run game, but the running backs are also leaving some meat on the bone.
New Orleans still has a more than respectable defense, allowing just 20.2 points per game (8th) and ranking 13th in team defense DVOA. Veterans like Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis are still playing at a high level, but who are some of the new/lesser known faces that have been big contributors?
Well I’m going to start with this: The defense was great early in the season, but they’ve really been struggling the past few weeks. They’ve allowed a lot more than 20 PPG over the past five or so games, but their early season success is keeping their numbers modest.
As for young guys who are excelling, the big one is (cornerback) Paulson Adebo. He balled out his rookie year and then really struggled with injuries last season. He’s been an absolute baller so far and he’s my team MVP through 12 weeks. Another guy is (linebacker) Pete Werner. He’s been in a little bit of a slump recently, but when he’s on, he’s so much fun to watch. He flies around the field and can be a major force in the run game. The last lesser known guy is going to be (defensive end) Carl Granderson. He plays opposite of Cam Jordan and has been the Saints most efficient rusher this season. He just earned a big extension, and rightfully so because he’s a beast on the edge.
After a consequential loss to the Atlanta Falcons and giving up important ground in the race for the NFC South, how do you anticipate the Saints responding this week against Detroit? Has Dennis Allen proven capable of steadying the ship and rallying the team in tough spots?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: This team has not proven they can respond and make adjustments when things go wrong. The offense has been a season-long “adjustment” and it just hasn’t improved even a little bit. I know Dennis Allen is a defensive head coach, but his unwillingness to make a change at play caller has baffled me and many Saints fans. All Dennis Allen has done in his career as a head coach is lose games. He has the worst record of any active coach who’s coached more than 60 games. His unwillingness to do what’s necessary for this team to improve because he’s afraid he’ll hurt someone’s feelings has been the main reason this team is stuck in mediocrity.
What’s one nugget of Saints’ intel that a gambling Lions fan would find useful for their bet slip this weekend?
Bet the team under for the Saints. I believe the line is set at 19.5 or 20.5, whatever it is, slam it. I sound like a broken record, but this offense is beyond repair and the Saints are likely without their three top receivers. They can’t score in the red zone, and with those three out, I think we could see the second straight game with no touchdowns for the Saints. Until there are real changes made at play caller or quarterback (or both), this offense will never find its footing.