The NFL Playoffs get underway Saturday and the biggest Wild Card matchup of the day pits the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints together. The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff and will be televised nationally on NBC. Currently the odds are heavily favoring New Orleans in this contest, favored anywhere from 10.5 to 12 points, depending on the book, with the total sitting at 59.5 points.
Free Analysis: Tonight's contest is the first playoff game for the Lions since 1999. New Orleans is accustomed to playing in the postseason and they're playing at home, where they've already beaten Detroit this season. It's a great matchup of 5,000 yard passers in Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford — the first time in NFL history that will happen. If we look back at the two franchises, we see some similarities. At one point, the Saints were the worst franchise in football. From 1967 until the end of the 2005 season, New Orleans posted the third-lowest winning percentage in NFL history (.403) behind Tampa Bay (.392) and the Houston Texans (.281), who had been in existence for only four years, so they get a pass. However, everything changed when Brees and now head coach Sean Payton got together. The Saints have gone 62-34 since the start of the 2006 season and won a Super Bowl back in 2009. New Orleans was unstoppable this season, winning all eight of their home games and rolling up a franchise-tying 13 wins. Brees has made a serious case for the MVP this season, tossing for 5,476 passing yards and breaking Dan Marino's all-time mark. Brees also connected for a record 468 passes — 46 for touchdowns — and finished with more than 300 yards in each of his last seven games, topping a mark he already held. All very impressive. Brees helped the Saints beat up on the Lions back in the regular season, 31-17. In that game the Lions were penalized more than 100 yards and surrendered more than 100 yards gained on those penalties as well. History is not on the Lions side as they are the only team in NFL history to sport an 0-16 season and lose 26 straight road games. ouch. Detroit (10-6) enters tonight's game with only one playoff victory since blowing out Cleveland for the 1957 NFL title. That's a long time. The Saints, conversely, are looking for their fifth straight playoff win at the Superdome. Wide receiver Lance Moore was ruled out on Friday due to a left hamstring injury, but Brees still has plenty of targets. The Lions should be able to take solace in going 5-3 on the road this season. Stafford is finally healthy and he finished with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns, breaking Scott Mitchell's single-season team records from 1995. The game's best receiver in Calvin Johnson finished five yards shy of matching Herman Moore's team record of 1,686 from that same season but was able to set a team record with 16 touchdowns on his 96 catches this year. Detroit is also expected to have safety Louis Delmas, a Pro Bowl alternate, and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh will play tonight. Suh wasn't able to play in the team's previous matchup because of suspension and Delmas hasn't played the last few weeks because of injury. Neither team is great at running the football, but if the Saints are able to force Detroit to hand it off more than they'd like, the Lions are in serious trouble. Defensively, both squads give up 368 yards per game but tonight's contest probably will go over that. The Lions have the offense to compete with the Saints, but it's whether or not their defense can come up with big plays that will be the key.
Free Pick: I'll take the Lions getting 11 points here. Detroit lost to New Orleans by 14 back in the regular season and set team high marks in penalties and penalty yards. Plus they didn't play with Suh chasing Brees around in the backfield, which will happen tonight. I honestly think the Lions have a shot to win outright in this contest, based on how their defense plays. I think the 11 points is a flat out gift and everyone should scoop that up. I know the Saints are a better team than Detroit solely because Brees is their quarterback but the Lions aren't exactly a bad football team. I'm expecting a lot of points tonight and if Detroit doesn't turn the ball over, they can hang in this game.
Free Picks: Lions at Saints BettingSaints on mission after last years playoff performance and Can Saints high powered offense be stopped plus other factors NFL bettors need to know about Lions at Saints (Saturday, January 7, 2012) from Pregame.com - Including a prediction from Stephen Nover and analysis from host Marco D'Angelo.