We are one week away from the start of the 2009 regular season, and I have never been as excited. On Sept. 13 the 8-8 New Orleans Saints open the 2009 season in the Superdome and face off against the 0-16 Detroit Lions in a Week 16 rematch of the 2008 season.
Let me just state that I do believe the Detroit Lions have improved drastically over the 2009 offseason, doing so by bring in linebackers Julian Peterson and Larry Foote as well as bringing in cornerback Phillip Buchanon.
You're probably wondering why I bolded Buchanon's name. The reason is that Buchanon, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, had only two interceptions in the 2008 season, and both were against Saints quarterback Drew Brees—one which he took back to the house to give the Bucs a lead against the Saints and the other which came in the fourth quarter to close out the game against the Saints.
I have to say the Saints offense is due for a big game, seeing that we ranked first in the NFL in total offense in 2008 and the Detroit Lions ranked 32nd in total defense, but with these new faces the Lions have brought in, this actually could be a challenge. At the same time, though, it could take these players a while to build chemistry together.
I'm assuming the Saints will go back to their ground game against Detroit, which was efficient against the Lions in Week 16 in 2008. The Saints offense rushed for 181 yards with four rushing touchdowns with a 6.0 average.
All four of those touchdowns were scored by four different players: Pierre Thomas, Deuce McAllister, Robert Meachem, and the man seen diving into the red zone in the picture above, Mike Bell.
If the Saints can execute on the ground against the Lions, they could "run" away with this game. I, for one, want to see if healthy enough how Reggie Bush can run against the 32nd-ranked defense against the run in 2008 and the 18th-ranked rushing defense in the 2009 preseason.
Yes, I am aware that it is just preseason football, but most things from the preseason carry over to the regular season.
Although I mentioned Buchanon earlier, I still feel the Saints' passing game will be on point once again. Brees will look to light up the Detroit Lions defense and go to his favorite target out of all his weapons, Marques Colston, who had his best game against the Lions in 2008 with nine receptions for 99 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
If the Lions want to end their 17-game losing streak, they will have to play solid defense and try to slow down the Saints' passing game. This is not as easy as it sounds as the Saints have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today.
If the Detroit Lions can at least contain the run and make the Saints offense one-dimensional, they might have a chance. Yet again we didn't rank too high in rushing and still managed light up the scoreboard with just our passing attack.
Now the one phase of the game I am most anxious to see is the New Orleans Saints defense. I am very excited to see Gregg Williams install all of his defensive schemes against the Detroit Lions offense. Although I am unaware of who is going to be the starting quarterback for the Lions in Week One, whoever it is better be ready for the heat.
The Lions gave up a total of 52 sacks in 2008, and I believe the key to the Saints' defensive success in this game will be getting to the quarterback. If the Saints can get after the quarterback against the Lions with the blitz, this will make up for the suspensions against of defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant.
People who follow the Saints are aware of the four-game suspensions that defensive ends Smith and Grant will be facing. This to me is a concern because I feel the only way the Saints will be able to pressure the Lions will be with the blitz and not with a four-man rush.
I still am scratching my head wondering who will be the starting cornerbacks for the Saints in Week One. I have no idea what pair of cornerbacks the Saints plan to play with, but whatever cornerbacks are starting will have a tough task ahead of them trying to cover the Lions' one-man wrecking machine Calvin Johnson.
One thing I know for sure is that rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins will not be starting. At least I would hope so—I don't feel he is ready just yet, although I do give him credit for his eight tackles he recorded against the Miami Dolphins in the final game of the preseason. However, I felt he was a victim of a couple of big plays.
Another concern I have will be the Saints' run-stopping. Last year the Saints allowed second-year running back Kevin Smith to rush for 111 yards with a 4.6 average and one rushing touchdown—the only touchdown the Saints gave up to the Detroit Lions.
If rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford is starting, then we will have to stuff the run to make the Lions offense one-dimensional and put more pressure on the rookie quarterback.
I am hoping that the Saints can come into Week One and create turnovers against the Lions offense and keep turnovers to a minimum against their defense. If the Saints can continue their streak of forcing fumbles in all four preseason games, then I believe the Saints offense will be able to close out this game.
My Official Prediction
The Lions will win a game in the 2009 season, but it just won't be against the Saints. As the Saints offense starts off where it finished last year and the defense improves, they prove to be too much for the winless Detroit Lions, who will extend their losing streak total to 18.
The Falcons took their first win against Detroit in 2008 and went on to an 11-5 season—the Saints are hoping for the same success.
Final Score: Saints 34, Lions 10