NFL playoffs: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Saturday, 8 p.m., Superdome, WRC-4
Lions 10-6, Saints 13-3
How the Lions can win… Detroit has a chance because of its offensive firepower with QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson. Stafford joined the Saints’ Drew Brees and the Patriots’ Tom Brady in topping 5,000 passing yards during the regular season, getting there with a 520-yard performance in Sunday’s loss to the Packers. Johnson led the league in receiving yards. The Lions will be familiar with the environment, having lost at New Orleans in early December. But they certainly need their defense to play better than it did Sunday at Lambeau Field when the Lions lost to the Packers, 45-41. Detroit had no answers for Green Bay’s backup QB Matt Flynn, who threw for 480 yards and six TDs. The Lions will need a few stops against Brees and the Saints.
How the Saints can win… The Saints enter the playoffs with an eight-game winning streak and a 13-3 record, and they were 8-0 at home during the regular season. They have the league’s top-ranked offense built around Brees, who set NFL single-season records for passing yards and completion percentage. The Saints’ plan is simple: turn Brees loose and let him outscore any opponent. Few teams can keep up. TE Jimmy Graham and RB Darren Sproles create major matchup problems for virtually any defense. The question is whether the Saints can continue to get by with a defense that ranked 30th against the pass and 24th overall during the regular season. New Orleans did fare better in scoring defense, ranking 13th in the league.