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Wild Card Preview: Lions at Saints

There are four NFC teams in action this week, and it's possible that the Green Bay Packers could face three of them (Lions, Falcons, or Giants) in a couple of weeks. The Packers played all four teams this season, and won all five games against them.

The first NFC wild card playoff game this upcoming weekend is on Saturday night, when the Saints host the Lions. I'm a little surprised that the Saints are favored by 11 because the Lions are a strong opponent. Here are the team stats from Football Outsiders:

Lions Saints
Pass Offense 10 3
Pass Defense 4 26
Run Offense 15 2
Run Defense 20 21
Special Teams 29 13

This has the makings of a shoot-out. While the Lions pass defense is highly ranked, they're limping into the playoffs after being demolished by Matt Flynn last week. If Flynn can play that well, then so can Drew Brees. However, Matthew Stafford was dominant in his own right, and the Saints defense isn't very good at stopping anyone's passing attack. While I'm picking the Saints (see below) the Lions certainly have enough offense to pull off the upset. One or two big plays for the Lions could win them the game.

Two other factors are in favor of the Saints. The Lions haven't gotten much from their special teams unit, while Darren Sproles is having a great season. Also, the Lions are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL coming in at exactly 8 penalties per game, while the Saints are average at just over 6 per game.

The Lions should score more than the 17 points they scored against the Saints back on December 4th. Stafford was still recovering from a broken finger, and now he's thrown 12 touchdowns in his last 3 games. The Lions are getting some defensive players back for this game (DT Ndamukong Suh and S Louis Delmas) who missed their previous meeting, but the Saints should still be able to score. It might just be a closer matchup this time around.

Saints 35, Lions 28.