Lions vs. Saints: Five things to know

The Lions hope to extend their win streak to two games when they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Detroit (1-2) is coming off a 26-23 win at Arizona while the Saints (1-2) lost to Green Bay, 37-30, last week.

Of course home field advantage means nothing with no fans allowed at Ford Field. When Matt Patricia was asked about it on Friday, he smiled. It is what it is.

Still it hasn’t been pretty under Patricia even in pre-COVID seasons.

“Look, I’m not going to live in the past as far as the numbers. I think we all know what the numbers are,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call. “From that standpoint, we’re obviously just trying to push forward and get better and go. I think you’re right. The teams that are consistent in this League, the teams that have won a lot in this league over a long period of time, have been able to establish that home-field advantage scenario.’’

In 2019 the Lions were 2-6 at home. In 2018 they were 3-5.

“ We’re just trying to go out and just be consistent in the moment right now and see where that goes from there,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to watch on Sunday:

1. The offense needs to build on its effort in the win over the Cardinals. Tight end Jesse James played a big role and the return of Kenny Golladay provided a much needed spark. Matthew Stafford had his best game of the season with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. But they were 2 of 6 in the red zone. “There (are) times where we try to run it in. There’s been times where we try to throw it in. We just have to be able to put it all together – whether it’s play calls, whether it’s execution of the specific plays, but we can definitely be better down there,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “That’s a focus. I believe the week before we were two-for-two in the red zone. So it has to become more consistent.”

2. Keep giving the ball to Adrian Peterson who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the first three games.  He had 22 carries in the win at Arizona.  “This guy is a freak of nature now. I don’t know where that wall is or where he’s going to hit it. The guy is always asking for more,’’ Bevell said.

3. After zero turnovers created by the defense in the first two games, they had three interceptions of Kyler Murray. Keeping him and the Cardinals’ offense was a huge part of the close win. The secondary is expected to have Desmond Trufant back in action. (Justin Coleman should be back soon too.) 

4. While the Saints have stumbled to a 1-2 start, never underestimate quarterback Drew Brees. He’s thrown six touchdown passes against just one interception. Patricia said he sees no difference in Brees. “I think you always look at the quarterbacks that have been in the League for a long time. Is there anything that shows up that’s different: arm strength, mobility, what they’re doing from a communication at the line of scrimmage standpoint – guys that are established like that,’’ Patricia said. “I’ve played against Drew Brees for a long time. I have the utmost respect for him, and his arm talent and his arm strength is still phenomenal. I don’t really read in to all that stuff.’’

5. However, the defense’s focus needs to be on running back Alvin Kamara who has three rushing and three receiving touchdowns. “It puts a lot of pressure on everybody. The guy’s highly, highly productive, and (Drew Brees) is really good at – if he doesn’t like what he sees down the field, he can be quick, or he can be late and get the ball in the guy’s hands,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “Once it’s in his hands, it takes everybody to get the guy on the ground. So, you’ve got to pick your spots when you’re calling the game.

Prediction: Lions 27, Saints 24

Five keys as Detroit Lions visit Green Bay Packers

Matthew Stafford will need to play better than in Sunday’s loss to the Bears if the Lions are to have a shot at upsetting the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday.

Of course, so will everyone around him — including the coaches.

“I think every time we go there and play, we’re playing a really good team in a tough place to play,’’ Stafford said. “Obviously it’s going to be an interesting venue this year with no fans like everywhere. The toughest part about going to play at Lambeau is the Packers. They’re a really good football team.’’

Green Bay defeated the Vikings 43-34 in their opener with Aaron Rodgers tossing four touchdown passes.

Five keys to Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field:

  1. Stafford threw an interception in the fourth quarter against the Bears trying to make the comeback after owning a 23-6 lead to start the fourth quarter. He’s going to throw interceptions throughout the season, but experience lets him move on quickly. “Obviously I can’t let it happen. I’ve been playing this game a long time, I get the ball in my hand late in the game, I know my guys trust me, I have to make good decisions with it and not try to do too much, keep us moving.’’ Same with the game this week. Last week is ancient history, the team needs to hit a reset button.

2. While the whole offseason the emphasis was on finishing, getting a good start is a bonus too. Stafford had missed the final half of last season with a broken back and had no preseason games which could be why the offense struggled early to find a rhythm. “I felt like it took me a little bit too long to get settled into this one, I wasn’t efficient enough early and I don’t know if it’s because I hadn’t played a game or just didn’t get into the flow,’’ Stafford said. “Either way I’m trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again …’’

3. The defense, especially without cornerbacks Justin Coleman (on injured reserve) and Desmond Trufant (out with hamstring), will have its hands full. It could be quite a welcome to the NFL moment for rookie corner Jeff Okudah thanks to Aaron Rodgers.

4.  Pressure up front will be critical. Last Sunday Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky was sacked just once by the Lions. But new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin didn’t put all of it on the defensive line. “When you talk about pass rush, it’s not just the four guys that are rushing by themselves. It has a lot to do with the linebackers in coverage, it has to do with the secondary in coverage and it all works together,’’ Undlin said on a conference call this week. “You guys have heard that phrase before.”

5. Once again the Lions will be without wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring). Rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus (fifth-round pick) led the Lions with 10 targets last week but only made three catches. “I know as a player out there I have a lot of confidence in him, I know the coaching staff does as well. He’s just a guy that continues to work hard, learn and try to prove himself,’’ Stafford said. “Look for the offense to spread the ball around. Tight end T.J. Hockenson proved that his good camp was not a fluke with a solid effort in the loss to the Bears.

PREDICTION: Packers 41, Lions 27.