If not for the fact that this is the Monday night game, there would really be no reason to tune into this matchup between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. The Lions (4-9) were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention after last week's road loss to the Rams. All they are playing for at this point is pride, draft positioning and trying to avoid double-digit losses.
The Saints (5-8) were mathematically eliminated on Sunday when the Vikings beat the Bears to move to 9-5. New Orleans has a chance to finish strong with a home game against Jacksonville and a visit to Atlanta remaining on its schedule after tonight's tilt with Detroit.
Considering these two teams have quarterbacks that are capable of slinging the football all over the field and the defenses rank among the bottom five in the NFL in points allowed, it's reasonable to assume that there should be a fair number of points scored in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. So while the game may mean absolutely nothing as it relates to the playoff picture, hopefully it will at least be entertaining.
New Orleans leads the all-time series 12-10-1. The Saints hold a 9-2 advantage in games played in New Orleans. That includes winning the three most recent games in the Superdome. The Lions’ last win in New Orleans occurred in 2000.
Detroit at New Orleans
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
Spread: Saints -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Running attack possible for the Saints?
The Saints have been held to fewer than 90 rushing yards in each of the past three contests. Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson have sustained season-ending injuries. Will anyone else step in and provide a credible threat on the ground?
C.J. Spiller has played tentatively when he has been out on the field. His highest rushing total this season was 24 yards in eight attempts. His season numbers stand at 34 carries for 110 yards.
Tim Hightower gained 85 yards on the ground last week. That was only the fifth game in which he was on the active roster this season. Despite his limited playing time, he has rushed for 133 yards on 40 attempts.
2. Calvin Johnson ready to burn the Saints' depleted secondary?
The Saints have allowed opponents to rack up at least 300 passing yards in eight games this season. New Orleans has lost six of those contests. When the Saints have allowed an opposing wide receiver 80 or more yards they are 3-5.
The Lions have only won two of the 10 games in which they have accumulated fewer than 300 passing yards. When Calvin Johnson has failed to reach at least 80 yards, the Lions are 0-6. Clearly, the Lions must exploit the greatest weakness of the Saints.
3. Night time is the right time for the Saints?
The decline of the home-field advantage of the Superdome has occurred since last season. Despite that, the Saints’ dominance in night games has not ended. They have won 19 of the last 21 games played in prime time. One wonders why head coach Sean Payton has not petitioned the NFL to have all of the Saints' games scheduled in the evening.
This game would hardly register on the national radar if not for the fact it’s the “Monday Night Football” matchup that wraps up Week 15 action. The Lions are already out of playoff contention. The Saints for all practical purposes are too.
Nevertheless, the Saints excel when the national focus is shown on their games at night. The Who Dat Nation will pack the Superdome and make it deafening. The Lions will not have motivation to counter-act the noise and hostility.
Prediction: Saints 28, Lions 24
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.