Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Saints RB Kendre Miller (ankle) and WR Rashid Shaheed (thigh) have yet to practice (as of Thursday), while WR Chris Olave (concussion) remains in the concussion protocol, placing his status in question as well.
- Lions C Frank Ragnow (back/toe) went from full practice on Wednesday to a ‘DNP’ on Thursday, not exactly the best setup for him to be active on Sunday.
- Very difficult to get a solid read on this game environment with so many moving pieces on the Saints.
How detroit Will Try To Win ::
The Lions have proven that they’ve turned a corner as an organization this season, capable of winning in many different ways. We’ve seen games of extreme pass rate over expectation games, we’ve seen balanced attacks, and we’ve seen games of extreme rush rate over expectation. And it hasn’t been like Detroit has remained rigid in the transition from game plan to game management, which typically occurs somewhere around the third possession of the game. In other words, the Lions have been capable of drawing up game plans to exploit the weaknesses of their opponents and have also been quick to adjust during games this season. That leaves them as one of the more dynamic offenses in the league. Up until a few weeks ago, the only glaring weakness from their offense was an inability to attack downfield, which largely changed once Jameson Williams got a couple games under his belt. From a macro perspective, the Lions boast a top-10 defense in yards allowed per game but have struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone, allowing 23.5 points per game (24th) behind the third-highest red zone touchdown rate allowed (68.57 percent). When this team cleans up their defense where it matters most, they are going to round third and head for home in their half-decade rebuild adventure.
Rookie Jahmyr Gibbs has maintained a stranglehold on the lead back duties since David Montgomery returned from injury three weeks ago, peaking at a 71 percent snap rate the last time out. Montgomery has seen snap rates of 38, 40, and 27 percent since returning from injury. Even so, Montgomery has been involved enough to keep Gibbs from seeing 20 or more running back opportunities, having peaked at 19 (twice) during the previous three games. Montgomery also remains the preferred short-yardage back, meaning his number is routinely called inside the five-yard line for a team with the highest green zone rush rate in the league over the previous two seasons. As in, this team pounds the rock when they get inside the 10. That has led to touchdowns in three straight for Montgomery, which further saps upside away from Gibbs. Montgomery remains a relative zero in the passing game, while Gibbs has seen five or more targets in six straight contests. The pure rushing matchup sets up as a net positive considering the elite run-blocking from the Detroit offensive line, which does take a hit if center Frank Ragnow misses with his mid-week downgrade in practice. The Saints have allowed a robust 4.5 yards per carry this season behind a middling 1.26 yards allowed before contact.
The passing game for the Lions is very much dominated by Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has absolutely erupted in his third professional season. Yes, this is still a wide receiver with a moderate aDOT, but his route running has improved with each passing year as a professional, and he remains the second most reliable wide receiver in the league, at least as far as consistency is concerned. Until last week, when he put up 95 yards through the air, St. Brown had scored or surpassed 100 yards receiving in every game this season. Meaning the one game where he failed to continue that streak he did so by just five yards. St. Brown is going to see seven to eight targets as a floor, with upside for 14-16 if the game environment dictates increased pass volume for the offense. Only he and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta are currently operating in near every-down roles, with Josh Reynolds and Jameson Williams settling into 60-70 percent roles, Kalif Raymond down in the 30-35 percent snap rate range, and Brock Wright handling 30-50 percent of the offensive snaps depending on personnel packages, which are most heavily influenced by game script. Teams have elevated their pass rates when playing the Saints this season, with the team seeing a 55.44 percent pass play rate against (10th in the league), which is interesting considering their pass defense is far better than their run defense by both DVOA and yards allow per rush or pass. I would expect the Lions to bias their attack slightly to the ground in a run-balanced approach in this spot.