20man: So, you're trying to fit three questions into one.
Well, let's start this week out with a bang.
The two big keys to keeping Brees and Co. in check are bringing pressure and limiting big plays.
The pressure part of it speaks for itself.
As for the big plays, Brees is No. 1 in the NFL with 49 completions of 20-plus yards. He also has a passer rating of 113.0 on attempts that travel more than 21 yards in the air.
The Lions have done a very good job over the last month of limiting big plays in the passing game. They are keeping everything in front of them, and then coming up and making tackles. They'll give up a high completion percentage on short passes over giving up the big plays.
As far as exploiting the Saints' defense, here are three numbers that stand out to me:
- New Orleans is allowing a passer rating of 113.4 on opposing pass attempts of 20-plus yards.
- They've allowed 1,462 yards after the catch, the seventh most in the league.
- They've forced the second fewest three-and-out drives in the NFL (17).
There should be plenty of plays to be made on offense for the Lions.
We'll have to wait and see on Pettigrew at the end of the week. Talking to him Monday, however, he sounded like a guy who really wants to play.
20man: The Lions certainly have the better track record this year with some of the late-game interceptions and forced fumbles they've caused, but the overall numbers show them to be better on that side of the ball, too.
The Saints are 30th in points allowed (27.9), 26th in total yards (370.5) and 27th against the pass (271.4). The Lions have the stronger defense that's been playing better over the last month.
20man: When you think of the Saints and their offense, you immediately think of Brees and the passing attack, but it would be a mistake to overlook their run game.
The Saints are ninth in the NFL rushing the football at 114.6 yards per game this season.
Mark Ingram has 721 yards on the season, and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry with three touchdowns. He also has another 248 receiving yards with four more touchdowns.
The Lions didn't have to face Ingram in last year's game. He was out with a shoulder injury. Detroit could have to contend with a full complement of Saints weapons this week, though it's worth noting Ingram missed practice Wednesday with a toe injury. We'll have to monitor that as the week progresses.
20man: The tiebreaker procedures for two teams in the division goes like this:
- Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
- Strength of victory.
Math is my worst subject, but if my numbers are correct, they'd be 1-1 head-to-head and they'd each be 4-2 against the division, 7-5 in common games and 7-5 in the conference.
That means the tiebreaker would go to strength of victory, which can't be determined at this point not knowing the results of all the games played in the NFL over 16 games.
20man: They haven't been good enough on early downs putting them in far too many long-to-go distances for first downs, which has ultimately led to way too many three and out drives. Dropped passes and penalties have played a factor in that as well.
Detroit's offense hasn't really made a ton of big plays lately, either. They rank 25th in the NFL over their last eight games with 24 plays of 20-plus yards. Sometimes it's hard to consistently drive the football down the field. Good offenses mix big plays in there as well.
New Orleans has struggled on defense all season, and have been the cure for a lot of inconsistent offenses this year. Detroit's offense could no-doubt use more of the same on Sunday.
20man: He's been pretty quiet since that hot start. Jones hasn't had a 100-yard performance since going off for 205 in Green Bay Week 3. He has two touchdowns over his last eight games.
For as bad as the Saints have been on defense, they haven't given up a ton of big games to one receiver. Four times in 11 games they've allowed a receiver more than 100 yards. They've permitted 10 touchdowns to receivers in 11 games, and just two in the same game twice.
Teams have spread the ball around to multiple players to attack the Saints, which is what the Lions are very good at doing. Detroit could end up with five different players catching at least 50 passes this season.
I'd expect the Lions to play well on offense and have a couple good performances, but there's no telling who will record them from week to week.
20man: Green Bay still has to play Seattle and Minnesota in between there. Granted, both are at home, but those are tough games.
I think one way or another, whether it's Detroit and Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay or all three in the mix, the Week 17 matchup with Green Bay probably decides it.
20man: At this point, entering Week 13 of the regular season, there really isn't much more they do can from a scheme or performance aspect other than potentially getting running back Ameer Abdullah back. If he returns at some point from IR, that could provide a spark for the league's 30th ranked rushing attack.
20man: Sunday's game in New Orleans, against the best offense in football, will be the true test.
There's certainly some substance to your question. Minnesota, Houston and Jacksonville rank in the bottom third of the league in total offense.
Washington, however, is ranked No. 2 in total offense and ninth in scoring. The Lions held them to only 17 points in a 20-17 win to kick off this five-game stretch of good defense, where they've held opponents to 20 points or less.
20man: DE Armonty Bryant was back on the practice field Wednesday. He's on the commissioner's exempt list and is allowed to practice and stay on that list until next Monday. The Lions could also choose to activate Bryant, which they'll have to do by Saturday, at the latest, if they plan to play him Sunday in New Orleans.
Bryant has three sacks and five tackles in four games played with the Lions this season. That's pretty good production in limited reps. I don't see why he wouldn't return to a reserve role this weekend, unless there's some other factor (game shape/injury) he's dealing with.
He's served his three-game suspension from the league for a 2015 off-the-field incident. Now it's back to rushing the passer.