NFL Monday Night Preview: Detroit vs. New Orleans

Tomorrow night’s sole Monday night game won’t have many implications for the post-season, when the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints meet. But the consequences of a lost season will remain and questions, largely as to how their rosters and coaching staffs will shake out in 2016 will hang over both teams.

Detroit is a lowly 4-9 and New Orleans is only one game better at 5-8. Neither of these two teams are salvageable, and both will be looking to make a lot changes in the off season. Detroit is rumored to be in the market for a new head coach. And the talk around New Orleans is that Sean Payton’s days are numbered and his position is increasingly on thin ice.

New Orleans recently fired their defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, mostly because the team’s defense could not stop a fly. In Detroit, they fired their offensive coordinator right before Week 8’s game and replaced him with an unknown named Jim Bob Cooter. Not surprisingly, things didn’t turn around for them.

So who’s going to win this game? It’s anyone’s game or whoever wants to save face more. It should feel like a race to 40 points since neither team knows how to play defense.

New Orleans will definitely score a boat load of points against a secondary that includes cornerback Darius Slay. On the hand, Detroit should have absolutely no problem going up and down the field against the Saints, who incidentally also have the worst offense this year.

These last-place teams will meet in a prime-time slot that will be devoid of playoff implications but should be an exciting and high scoring games with many fumbles, sacks and hail marys.

Detroit should be sulking after last week’s close 21-14 loss in St. Louis which officially eliminated them from postseason contention. Their general manager Martin Mayhew was fired in early November, and if the Lions can’t win tonight, their coach Jim Caldwell’s seat will get hotter with every loss.

The Lions will need to shore up the holes in their D if they want to avoid an 11th season (since 2001) with six wins or less.

“They’re still keeping score in this game and we have guys that are professionals,” Caldwell told media. “With the right kind of people that know how to approach the game, you’ll see them come out and fight with the same kind of energy that they always do.”

The Lions started off the season 0-5, sadly it was the same number of losses they had as a wild-card team last year. Caldwell’s team has a good chance though to at least end the season on a higher note, since its final three games will be against sub-.500 teams: New Orleans, San Francisco and Chicago.

Matthew Stafford has thrown nine touchdowns, including four to Calvin Johnson and has had only one interception in his past three games. They should have enough opportunity to bulk up those numbers against the Saints tomorrow night.

How? Well other team’s offenses have destroyed New Orleans, making 3,624 passing yards and getting a league-high 36 touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks hold a 114.2 passer rating against the Saints while throwing just six interceptions.

Detroit QB, Stafford against New Orleans has thrown eight picks and six TDs while losing three of four games against them, and that includes a wild-card showdown in 2012. But he has what it takes to win, since last year he rallied the Lions back from being 13 down with less than four minutes left on the clock at Ford Field, in a stunning 24-23 win.

New Orleans has played a bit better recently, allowing only 176 yards and one score through the air in their game last week. It’s when they were able to break a four-game losing streak with a 24-17 victory against Tampa Bay. They gave up only 291 total yards to the Buccaneers, which was a season low for an opponent, considering they allowed an average of 463.0 in the previous four weeks of play.

They also have kick started their offense a bit. After combining for only 20 points in consecutive losses to close out November, the Saints scored 62 points in the last two weeks alone.

Also in place of the injured Mark Ingram, running back Tim Hightower ran for 85 yards and a touchdown in his first start since 2011 in Tampa Bay.

Hightower had been out of the NFL for three years after complications from a serious knee injury, and he had only 12 carries and 48 yards in limited action this season before breaking out against Tampa Bay. He carried the ball 28 times, six more than Ingram’s highest total before he ended up on the injured reserve last week with a shoulder injury.

Hightower has a lot on the line down the stretch as he will try to prove he still has a place in the NFL, and he’ll be focused hardcore on Detroit.

“To even think of it as a three-game season for me would be a disservice to my team,” Hightower said. ”What I can control is how I prepare for this next game and when that time comes, do everything I can to give my team a chance to win. … I’ll let the other things sort out when they do.”

As it goes for injuries, Detroit recetly placed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on injured reserve this week after he tore his ACL against St. Louis. And that opens up space for tight end Eric Ebron to make an impact, who was the team’s first-round pick last season.

“I get paid to pay these three games, and I’m going to go out there and try to earn every penny I get,” Ebron told media. “Now we’ve got people out here playing to stay. Everybody has something to play for.”

So while these two franchises try to figure out how they will address holes in their rosters in the off season, tomorrow night they still remain the kind of team that cannot stop anybody. They are capable of losing games even after scoring 30 points. So that means a high scoring and run-and-gun type of game awaits fans, where anyone who wants to highlight his game on a national stage, simply just has to take the reigns and bring the game home.

Our Pick: Lions over Saints, 37-33