Newyorkjets.com will profile each playoff game in this NFL postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: Saturday's NFC Wild Card Round game:
(6) DETROIT (10-6) at (3) NEW ORLEANS (13-3), 8 p.m. ET, NBC
If you enjoy high-scoring, explosive offenses, you've come to the right place. Both teams rely heavily on their passing attack, and both teams rank in the bottom 10 in the league in pass defense. Buckle up because the Lions and Saints are about to take us on a ride.
The Saints finished the regular season an undefeated 8-0 at home and have not lost at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in over a year, when they dropped the 2010 regular-season finale to the Buccaneers, 23-13. Beginning with the 2009 campaign that eventually brought the Saints their first Lombardi Trophy, Nawlins has gone 21-5 in its own building.
The Lions will have to overcome the Saints' home-field advantage if they want to win their first postseason game since defeating the Cowboys in a divisional round game in 1992. Detroit's arsenal of young talent will get its first taste of the NFL playoffs after finishing 8-40 in the three seasons leading up to 2011.
This game is all about the quarterbacks. The Lions' Matt Stafford and the Saints' Drew Brees make this the first playoff matchup in NFL history that will pit two QBs who surpassed 5,000 passing yards.
Brees is hoping to parlay his record-shattering season into his second Super Bowl. The face of the New Orleans franchise broke a bevy of NFL single-season passing records including yards (5,476), 300-yard games (13), consecutive 300-yard games (seven), completions (468) and completion percentage (71.2).
As a team, the Saints set the league record for net offensive yards with an astounding 7,474. In addition to Brees' passing prowess, RB Darren Sproles entered his name into the record books by compiling 2,696 all-purpose yards and becoming the first player in history to total 1,300 yards from scrimmage (1,313) and via kick returns (1,383).
The Lions offense was also a historically prolific bunch. Stafford set franchise records for passing yards (5,038), touchdowns (41), and passer rating (97.2). All that production from a player not named to the Pro Bowl just goes to show the depth of quarterback talent in the NFC.
Stafford's favorite target is WR Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, who led the league with 1,681 receiving yards en route to his second straight Pro Bowl. Johnson set a team record with 16 TD receptions, becoming the first Lion since RB Barry Sanders to score more than 15 TDs in a season.
The Lions and Saints have never met in postseason play, and New Orleans holds a slight edge over Detroit in their all-time series at 11-9-1. The two have met in three of the last four seasons, with the Black & Gold winning all three and never scoring fewer than 31 points in those games. The Saints fare better at home against the Lions, sporting an 8-3 all-time record.
The game is a rematch of a Week 13 Sunday night game in which the Saints turned away the visiting Lions, 31-17. Brees was in vintage form, shredding Detroit's 22nd-ranked pass defense with 342 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Six Saints had at least two catches, led by TE Jimmy Graham, who caught eight balls for 89 yards.
Stafford did his best to match Brees, throwing for 408 yards, one touchdown — and one costly fourth-quarter interception. Despite outgaining the Saints and possessing the ball for over 10 minutes more, the Lions were done in by their own failures. The Silver & Blue converted only two of 11 third-down opportunities and racked up 11 penalties for 107 yards.
The Saints defense is anchored by LB Jonathan Vilma, the former Jets 2004 first-round pick. The NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 as a member of Gang Green, Vilma finished his career in New York after four years and a Pro Bowl appearance. In 2005, he led the NFL with 173 total tackles. Since joining the Saints, Vilma has become one of the team leaders. He has since been selected to two Pro Bowls and was a member of the Super Bowl XLIV championship team.
The Lions' punter for the last seven games has been Ben Graham (44.1-yard gross, 38.7 net), the Aussie who punted his first four years in the NFL with the Jets. Assistant ST coach Bradford Banta long-snapped for the Jets in 2000.
There is some New York-area flair elsewhere on the Saints roster, including DE Will Smith (Queens, N.Y.), S Malcolm Jenkins (Piscataway, N.J.), LB Jonathan Casillas (New Brunswick, N.J.), and S Isa Abdul-Quddus (Union, N.J. and Fordham University). The Lions feature one local player in special teams contributor LB Doug Hogue (Yonkers, N.Y.).