WHEN: Noon Sunday
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit
RADIO: WWL-AM, 870 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge
RECORDS: The Lions are 4-2. The Saints are 2-3.
LAST WEEK: Detroit’s defense sacked rookie Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater eight times, and it intercepted him three times as the Lions beat the Vikings 17-3 on the road. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (19-of-33 for 185 yards) threw a touchdown, and running back Joique Bell — who spent much of 2011 on the Saints’ practice squad — had 74 yards and another score on 18 carries. Meanwhile, the Saints had a bye week, giving them extra time to enjoy their 37-31 overtime win at home against Tampa Bay on Oct. 5.
COACHES: Lions, Jim Caldwell, 1st season (4-2); Saints, Sean Payton, 8th season (75-42)
Offensive stats, per game (league rank in parentheses)
Points: Saints, 26.4 (13th); Lions, 19.3 (27th)
Total yards: Saints, 442.8 (2nd); Lions, 330.2 (23rd)
Rushing: Saints, 133 (8th); Lions, 86.3 (29th)
Passing: Saints, 309.8 (2nd); Lions, 243.8 (14th)
Defensive stats, per game (league rank in parentheses)
Points: Saints, 28.2 (28th); Lions, 13.7 (1st)
Total yards: Saints, 379.6 (23rd); Lions, 270.7 (1st)
Rushing: Saints, 112 (16th); Lions, 73.5 (2nd)
Passing: Saints, 267.6 (25th); Lions, 197.2 (1st)
LIONS: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, RB Reggie Bush, RB Joique Bell, DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Ziggy Ansah, DE George Johnson
SAINTS: QB Drew Brees, TE Jimmy Graham, WR Brandin Cooks, RB Khiry Robinson, LB Junior Galette, S Kenny Vaccaro
Offense: Coordinated by former Saints assistant Joe Lombardi, the Lions offense shares some qualities with New Orleans’, but Detroit has been much less productive this year, in part because star receiver Calvin Johnson has been hobbled for two games and then completely sidelined for a third with an ankle sprain.
However, the Lions have also focused on reducing the turnovers quarterback Matthew Stafford has had in years past. The result is a conservative attack that’s got Stafford on pace to post his lowest yardage total since he missed 10 games with a hurt shoulder in 2010, but it’s also got him on pace to throw eight fewer interceptions than the 19 he had last year.
Defense: The reason the Lions are content with Stafford concentrating primarily on playing mistake-free football is because they have the best defense in the NFL, allowing the fewest points, total yards and passing yards per game in the NFL while being No. 2 against the run. Their pass rush is fierce, leading the NFL in quarterback sacks (20), more than half of which have come via defensive linemen George Johnson (4.0), defensive end Ziggy Ansah (3.5) and three-time First Team All-Pro Ndamukong Suh (3).
Special teams: The Lions’ field-goal kicking game has been a disaster. They’ve already cut two kickers, Nate Freese and Alex Henery, who were dismal at 3-of-7 and 1-of-5, respectively. Their replacement, Matt Prater, had far from an ideal debut with the Lions at Minnesota, going just 1-of-3, though his make was from more than 50 yards.
- Both sides will be monitoring the health of All-Pro passing weapons. Nursing a hurt shoulder, All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham is in doubt to play for the Saints at Detroit. He leads New Orleans with 34 catches for 376 yards and two touchdowns. On behalf of the Lions, three-time All-Pro Calvin Johnson is also in question with his ankle injury — he’s second on Detroit with 22 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns. First for the Lions in receptions is Golden Tate with 38 for 495 yards and a touchdown.
- Meanwhile, both New Orleans and Detroit are hoping to get back weapons in the running game. The Saints have done without running back Mark Ingram the past three games because of a fractured hand — he was leading the Saints with 143 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries before he got taken out of the line-up hurt. Khiry Robinson has since surpassed Ingram in rushing yards (304), and Jimmy Graham’s tied him in TDs.
As for the Lions, they’re set to welcome back Reggie Bush, who missed Detroit’s win at Minnesota with an ankle injury. Bush has 161 rushing yards and a touchdown on 45 carries as well as 142 yards on 20 receptions.
Of course, this will be the first time the Saints play against Bush, who was New Orleans’ first-round draft pick in 2006, helped the team win Super Bowl XLIV four seasons later and was then traded away after the 2010 campaign. The Saints chose Ingram in the first round of the 2011 draft prior to shipping off Bush, who was with the Dolphins for two years and joined the Lions last season.
- Other former Saints on the Lions are fullback Jed Collins (2010-13, who has a touchdown reception this season) and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (2011-13). One last connection: the Lions’ Jim Caldwell was the head coach of Indianapolis when the Colts lost Super Bowl XLIV to the Saints.