Not much in the way of playoff implications rides on Monday night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions, but both teams still have reasons to play (8:30pm ET on ESPN).
For starters, top draft positions are on the line, as are a few final chances to evaluate personnel. Needless to say, in last place in their divisions, both the Lions and Saints are playing for next year.
Things have not exactly gone as planned for the 5-8 Saints. While not pegged to win the division that just a few years ago had been dominated by the black and gold, the Saints entered the season with a strong roster led by improvements made defensively and some new draftees. Unfortunately, the Saints lost their best offensive player not named Drew Brees, when Jimmy Graham went to the Seattle Seahawks. Without Graham, the Saints stuttered to a 1-4 start.
New Orleans did manage to roll off a winning streak after that to even their record at 4-4 but with the then-undefeated Atlanta Falcons and currently still undefeated Carolina Panthers, fighting for real estate in the same division, playoffs looked like a long shot. Add to that the second 1-4 stretch of the season, of which New Orleans is currently mired in, and it’s no surprise the team sits at the bottom, not the top, of the NFC South.
Meanwhile, for the Lions, who just a few years ago became the NFL’s only ever 0-16 team, history became dangerously close to repeating itself. The team went 3-1 in the preseason but failed to win each of their first five games. Detroit went 1-7 in those first eight before reeling off a three game winning streak, the most notable of victories coming against playoff bound and NFC North leading Green Bay Packers. The Packers would even the head-to-head with a win three weeks later which the Lions followed up with a loss against the St. Louis Rams. Another team with high hopes to compete in a stacked division, the 4-9 record the Lions bring into this game was certainly not what the team had expected.
As bad as both teams are, in a year where the NFL as a whole has been below average, surprisingly enough, both are likely too good to get that top pick or even top five pick. That said, the winner will be that much further from that and in a position where their coach and quarterback is more likely to keep his job.
As far as the coaching situation goes, both Lions’ Jim Caldwell and Saints’ Sean Payton, have been around for some time. Both have seen the highs and the lows and both have led their respective teams to good seasons and bad. But the truth is, those past accomplishments will only get you so far and for Caldwell and Payton, it is quite possible the welcome is worn or very close to it. Finishing the season on a positive note will go a long way to the case for either or both of these guys to keep their jobs.
The same goes for Brees and Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford (pictured). While the quarterback is not in danger of losing his job per se, both Brees and Stafford have also been around for some time. Especially in the case of the 27-year-old veteran Stafford, who unlike Brees hasn’t won anything, the Lions might look to move on and use a top draft pick to do so. As for Brees, who continues to excel at 36 and in his 15th year in the league, his future is uncertain as well. The veteran’s contract will be up soon and if Payton moves, it is very likely the head coach will try to bring his signal caller with him. Again, the results of Monday’s game as well as the rest of the season will certainly play a role in the roster development and player personnel situation both teams are faced with next year.
As far as the game itself goes, the Saints have been on more of a hot streak as of late. Young receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead have really developed into form and the unclear running back situation has opened the door for the young Tim Hightower to put up some big numbers over the past few weeks. In short, the Saints still aren’t good and defense is still a problem, but the team has one of the NFL’s best arms and it’s hard to bet against that no matter what the rest of the roster looks like.
New Orleans plays host to the Lions on Monday as well which is likely the reason the spread, just 2.5pts, favors the Saints. New Orleans has always played better at home, as most teams tend to, but the Super Dome has been particularly friendly to the home team. Even in a year where New Orleans has won just five games, they are 3-3 at home and just 2-5 on the road.
Our Preview’s Detroit Lions vs New Orleans Saints Picks
It’s a game of two underperformers, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good betting medium. For our preview’s betting picks predictions we go:
- Take the New Orleans Saints -2.5pts @ best betting odds of -119 with BetOnline. It is also -120 for the same handicap on the spread with 5Dimes Sportsbook. Bovada will give you better odds of -105 but will penalize the saints an extra half point at -3pts for the privilege.
- As for the total points in the game, the sportsbooks set the mark at 51.5pts. We reckon to take the over 51.5 points with some confidence @ best betting odds of -110 with Bovada, BetOnline or 5Dimes. Both Stafford and Brees are gunslingers and for all of the problems of both teams, it’s hard to imagine these guys not putting points on the board, especially with Calvin Johnson still one of the NFL’s best receivers and a great weapon for Stafford.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.