The New Orleans Saints will kick-off their 2009 campaign with what is essentially an extra preseason game against the NFL's reigning J.V. squad. The Detroit Lions, whose last win came two Christmases ago (December of '07 against the Chiefs), are trying to be this years' Atlanta Falcons-while the Saints have slightly more ambitious aspirations.
The last time these two teams met it was a shoot out, with the Lions running out of ammo prematurely. Neither team had a shot at the playoffs. But In their second to last game of the year, the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees were eying Dan Marino's record for the most passing yards in a season. On the opposing sideline, the Lions were just hoping to avoid "grit iron" infamy, becoming the only team to ever go 0-16.
Brees was 30-0f-40, for 351yards, and two touchdowns in the 42-7 drubbing. The Saints, as the score would indicate, scored at will-putting it in the end-zone on their first four possessions and converted on 12-of-13 third down attempts.
Still, as far as the NFL is concerned, last year's stats have very little to do with today's results. Detroit is sporting a new quarterback in first round overall pick Matthew Stafford, and a new head coach in former Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Normally this would be a recipe for growing pains, but Baltimore and Atlanta have proven that teams can turn it around in just one season given the right personnel.
On the other hand, the Saints have geared up to make an appearance at the "big dance" after undergoing an extensive off-season makeover. However, just like a season ago, injuries are already an issue. RB Pierre Thomas, the wheels behind the Saints growing bandwagon, is out with a knee injury. OT Jamal Brown, the Saints' best O-lineman, will likely be out for the first 5 games(due to hip surgery), and although Reggie Bush is not worried about the health of his knee, Saints fans know that he's only one "juke" away from the IR.
In the end, this game has very different implications for both squads. Both are trying to exercise the ghost of mediocrity. But the Lions are in the "rebuilding" stages (again), and any sign of life would be a welcomed harbinger of things to come. For the Saints, its the prelude to a sixteen week marathon. They can't overlook the Lions, and yet they still would like to set the tone for the rest of the season- because a misstep out of the blocks against Detroit would make it a difficult task to stay in stride with the studs in the NFC South.
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