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papz 12-02-2011 02:42 PM

Three to Focus on: Lions @ Saints, Week 13
Everyone loves a good offensive battle and when you have Drew Brees and Calvin Johnson in the same game you know you’ll get just that. And, to add substance to the expected fireworks, we have two teams that are fighting for playoff position.

After an embarrassing loss to the Rams a month ago, the Saints have put things back together by defeating two NFC playoff contenders and a division rival. They became just the 12th team to log 500 yards total offense in a Monday Night Football game since 1989 when they beat the Giants.

Detroit started the season strong, flashing on everyone’s radar. They have recently shown, however, that they are not quite ready to compete with the best that the NFC has to offer. In recent weeks they’ve lost to San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, and Green Bay. In order for the Lions to make the playoffs they’ll need to string some wins together and, in order for New Orleans to have a shot for a first round bye (the 49ers own the No. 2 seed right now), they need the wins too. Ready or not, it’s playoff scenario season.

Jeff Backus vs. Will Smith

Most signs here point to Matthew Stafford (+12.9) having all day to throw the ball. The Lions as a team have a +4.4 pass block rating, ranking them 11th, while the Saints pass rush has an overall rating of -34.2 which puts them dead last. The one thing that could change that is the matchup between Jeff Backus (-14.3) and Will Smith (+8.2).

In recent weeks Backus hasn’t played as bad as his overall rating suggests. Over the first seven games of the season, he allowed 4.1 pressures per game, while over the last four games he’s averaged just 2.0. Smith has lined up on the right side of the field for every snap he’s seen this season, so chances are good that there will be plenty of plays where Backus will be responsible for controlling him. Backus isn’t the only one who looks better than his PFF rating, as Smith averaged 3.0 pressures per game for most of the season, but in the past two weeks has had five pressures in each game. This matchup is the one spot that New Orleans has a shot to get pressure on Stafford. The only question now is how big of a game can Smith have?

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