Four Storylines Heading Into Lions at Saints

The Detroit Lions will look to return to their winning ways on Sunday when they head south to take on the playoff-hopeful New Orleans Saints from the Superdome. Following Detroit’s disappointing loss to the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day, many fans are beginning to press the panic button despite the team’s 8-3 record and 2.5-game lead in the NFC North. A win this weekend would go a long way for a restless fanbase and, more importantly, a team that hasn’t played its best football over the last month. Here are some storylines surrounding the Lions ahead of this interconference matchup.

Storylines Heading Into Lions at Saints

Jared Goff’s Turnovers

Over his last two games, Lions quarterback Jared Goff has turned the ball over a whopping six times. In Week 11 against the Chicago Bears, Goff threw three interceptions before leading Detroit to a comeback victory in the final minutes of the game. Last week, the Lions were unable to overcome Goff’s three fumbles in their defeat to Green Bay.

Since arriving in Detroit in 2021, Goff has protected the ball relatively well. In his first season with the Lions, he was intercepted eight times. Last year, Goff was only picked off seven times, tying his career-low for a season. 2023 has been a different story, however. Through 11 games, Goff has already thrown eight interceptions, deviating from the signal-caller Lions fans have grown accustomed to seeing week in and week out. 

It’s no coincidence that his play over the last two weeks is a direct correlation to the Lions’ underwhelming performances; the offense has struggled to get in a rhythm and the turnovers are leaving the defense in tough spots on the field. Goff must take better care of the ball moving forward if the Lions want to play meaningful games late into the season.

Jonah Jackson Returns To Practice

Perhaps some of the issues Goff and the offense have dealt with are due in part to guard Jonah Jackson‘s absence. Luckily for Detroit, Jackson returned to practice this week and could be in line to play Sunday in New Orleans.

Jackson has missed the last two contests with a wrist injury, and there’s no doubt that the Lions will welcome his return. Detroit boasts one of the best offensive lines in football but missed Jackson while he was out. Last week, they allowed three sacks and 12 quarterback hits. Jackson’s participation in practice will be something to monitor as the week progresses, but it looks like Detroit could be getting one of their best offensive linemen back in Week 13.

Alex Anzalone Dealing With Injury

If the Lions’ loss on Thanksgiving wasn’t disappointing enough, linebacker Alex Anzalone was injured in the fourth quarter and his status moving forward is in doubt. He’s not expected to play Sunday with a hand injury, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for a defense that’s ranked 31st in success rate since their Week 7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who plays more offense and special teams these days, could see defensive snaps on Sunday to help fill the void that Anzalone leaves.

Anzalone signed an extension with the Lions in the offseason, was voted a team captain, and has been a starter for the Detroit defense since coming over from New Orleans in 2021. He leads the team in tackles by a wide margin and has arguably been their most consistent player this season on the defensive side of the ball. It will be a challenge for Detroit to replace his productivity on Sunday.

Homecoming For Dan Campbell

Before taking over as Lions head coach in 2021, Dan Campbell spent five seasons in New Orleans serving as the Saints assistant head coach and tight ends coach under now Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton.

During Campbell’s time in New Orleans, the Saints were one of the most successful teams in the NFL. From 2016-2020, the Saints had a regular season record of 56-24, appeared in the playoffs four times, and reached the infamous NFC Championship game in 2018, where they fell to Goff’s Los Angeles Rams. Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn also served on New Orleans’ staff from 2016 to 2020 as the team’s defensive backs coach. There’s no doubt it will be an emotional game for Campbell, and he’ll want nothing more than to defeat his former team and leave his old home with a victory.

The Lions will look to tie their win total from last year and push their record to 9-3 to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers atop the NFC.

Main Image: © David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

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