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Five things to watch: Lions at Saints

Both of Detroit's losses this season have been to NFC South opponents – Atlanta and Carolina. The Lions will attempt to get their first win against the South on Sunday, when they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints.

It's the fourth straight year the Lions and Saints will meet, with the Lions winning each of the previous three matchups. Can the Lions make it four in a row and head to their bye week on a good note?

Here are five things to watch out for today:



Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been dealing with an ankle injury this week, though he's been a full participant in practice all week. He was listed as questionable for today's matchup. We'll have to wait and see whether the injury limits his mobility at all.

Stafford's been very good all year moving in the pocket and extending plays with his legs. He's Detroit's second leading rusher behind Ameer Abdullah, gaining 53 yards on 10 carries.

Will the Lions run out of the shotgun more to limit Stafford's movement on the ankle? Will he be limited at all when the pocket does collapse and he needs to make a play with his legs?


The turnover battle is a key component to every contest, but the battle between Detroit's defense and the Saints' offense in this department makes for even more intrigue this week.

The Saints are the only team in the NFL that hasn't committed a turnover. Quarterback Drew Brees has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Lions' defense has created the third most turnovers (11) through the first five weeks of the season. Last week's loss to Carolina was the first game this season the Lions failed to record a takeaway.

Since the addition of the forward pass in 1933, just three teams have finished the first four games of the season without a turnover -- the 1995 St. Louis Rams, the 2013 Tennessee Titans and the 2017 Saints, according to

Both the Rams and Titans saw their streak end at four games. In the fifth game, each team had three turnovers and lost the game.

Whichever team wins the turnover battle has a terrific shot to win this game.


The Lions have had plenty of them this year, particularly the last couple weeks. Stafford's been sacked 18 times this season and hurried 42 times in all. Both totals are among the highest in the league.

In the last two weeks alone, Stafford's been sacked 12 times and has been hit 14 times. Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said this week that Detroit's issues with protection aren't all on the offensive line.

"Whatever the sack number is, people tend to point at the O-Line and say, 'Boy, that's all on them,'" he said. "Certain aspects of the protection issues that we've had, are on the offensive line. But there are certain aspects that are on every single other guy and position group on that field.

"We've got to run routes better. We've got to get the ball out faster. We do have to protect better up front, and that's O-Line, tight end, running back, whoever's involved in protection. So, I think it's an offensive goal. It's really a pass-game oriented problem. But we've got to get it cleaned up and eliminate the problems. Fix the problems."

New Orleans ranks 19th in the NFL with 11 sacks, but they've only played four games coming off their bye last week.


Brees has a new weapon in rookie running back Alvin Kamara. The Saints have been increasing Kamara's role each and every week. His emergence allowed them to trade Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals this week.

Kamara is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and is coming off a 10-catch outing last week vs. Miami, a performance that saw him catch all 10 of his targets for 71 yards and a touchdown. Brees hasn't had a receiving threat out of the backfield like Kamara since Darren Sproles in 2013.

When asked about Kamara this week, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Kamara has a lot of Theo Riddick in him. That's pretty high praise, considering no running back has caught more passes than Riddick (151) since 2015.


In the last three meetings between these teams, Lions receiver Golden Tate has combined to catch 24 passes for 344 yards with four touchdowns and 212 yards after the catch.

Tate's four touchdowns are the most the Saints have given up to any one receiver since 2014. His yards after the catch are the second most, receiving yards third most and receptions fourth most.

Feeding Tate the football early and often could be the cure to whatever's been ailing the Lions' offense of late.

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