Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/8/12
Game day is here.  With their Super Bowl title, string of postseason appearances and record-setting offense, the fact that the New Orleans Saints were once one of the NFL's lowliest franchises has been forgotten.  This season, New Orleans matched their 2009 Super Bowl-winning franchise record of 13 wins.  As they begin their quest for another championship tonight, they face a Detroit Lions team that’s seeking to take another step in it turnaround.  For the second time in over a month, the Saints welcome the Lions to the Mercedes Superdome.  The wild-card Lions (10-6) are making their first trip to the playoffs this millennium, proving their franchise is on the rise, and defeating the mighty Saints will definitely place them on the football map.  Earning another playoff win, however, won't prove easy for Detroit considering New Orleans has gone 8-0 at home for the first time, ending their season with an eight-game winning streak.  Additionally, the Lions carry a 3-8 record in New Orleans. 

There is no doubt that the fans are in for a treat tonight as two of the league’s finest quarterbacks go head to head.  Saints quarterback Drew Brees is coming off his finest regular season ever, breaking a bevy of NFL offensive records. Besides blowing away Dan Marino’s single season record with 5,476 passing yards, he has also finished with over 300 yards in each of his last seven games.  One of those games included the 31-17 win over Detroit on December 4th.  Likewise, Detroit’s former No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Matthew Stafford, boasts impressive statistics as well.  In three different games, Detroit trailed by 17 points or more and Stafford successfully led them back to victory, clinching an NFL record for comebacks.  Despite Stafford’s undeniable talent, Brees has the uncanny ability to sense what defenses are planning to do.

Offensively, this game will most likely be high scoring for both teams.  Although one of Brees’ most reliable targets, wide receiver Lance Moore, will not play tonight due to a hamstring injury, the Lions will still have to cope with some of the Saints other dangerous defensive players including Robert Meachem (40 catches, 15.5 yards per catch) and Devery Henderson (30 catches, 17.7 yards per catch).  Even though the Lions have one of the best offenses in football, it is unlikely they will be able to keep up with Drew Brees and the Saints.

In the last faceoff against the Lions, the Saints did an outstanding job in blocking the Lions’ defensive line – but defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was out serving the first of his two-game suspension.  With Suh’s return, the Lions’ front four will be even more formidable tonight.  Detroit is also expected to play safety Louis Delmas who has been out since spraining his right MCL on Thanksgiving Day. 

Known for their previously lackluster special teams, the Saints’ now shine with the addition of Darren Sproles, whose 27.2 yards per kickoff return ranks sixth in the NFL.  His versatile skill set and season 86 catches make it all too easy for fans to forget that former Saints player – you know, the guy with the big diamonds, hot girlfriend and a Heisman Trophy that was taken away?

Considering the Saints have destroyed everything in their path since November, the Lions potent offense will not be enough to hang with the Saints in the Superdome.  Moreover, the Lions have been troubled by good passing games this season, allowing 239.4 yards per game, 22nd in the NFL this year.  Their defense will have to keep Brees off the field, while also keeping their star players on the field.  Detroit will need to bring everything they have to the table if they plan on upsetting the Saints this Wild Card Weekend.  After dreams of a second straight championship were crushed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, the Saints are more prepared and focused on clinching a second Vince Lombardi trophy.
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