Week 13 Free NFL Picks: Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints NFL Week 13 Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on NBC 12/4/11: A pair of NFC playoff contenders will go head to head Sunday night when the Detroit Lions (7-4) visit the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints (8-3). The teams are heading in opposite directions heading into the matchup, with the Saints winning three straight and the Lions dropping four of their last six after a 5-0 start. In the always tight playoff battle, both sides need to win Sunday. As one of the best home teams in the NFL, the Saints are 8 ½-point favorites.

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The headline leading up to the game has been the suspension of Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. After stopping a Green Bay offensive lineman last Thursday, Suh will miss the Lions’ next two games. Suh is the leader of a fierce defensive line for Detroit, and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been the cornerstone of the Lions’ defense. If the pass rush falters in Suh’s absence, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees should pick apart a mediocre Detroit secondary.

After all, New Orleans owns the top-ranked passing attack in the NFL at 324.2 yards per game. Brees has thrown 27 touchdowns and is one pace to shatter Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a single season. He has a variety of firepower at his disposal, making the Saints’ passing attack one of the most complex systems in the league. Tight end Jimmy Graham has been unstoppable thanks to his combination of size and speed, and running back Darren Sproles has given teams fits out of the backfield. Throw in the reliable Marques Colston and Lance Moore at receiver, and it is easy to understand why Brees’ numbers are MVP worthy.

Of course, Detroit can throw the ball as well, ranking sixth in the NFL in passing yards. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has excelled in his first full season, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. He gets a shot at a New Orleans’ defense that has struggled defending the pass, pressuring quarterbacks and forcing turnovers. Stafford should have the opportunity to put up some points and keep pace with Brees and company. However, Stafford will have to overcome a recent slump to do so. He has thrown nine interceptions in the last three games, and if he gives the Saints extra possessions Sunday night, the Lions could get blown out.

In a game between two of the best passing attacks in the NFL, the X-factor could end up being the running game for both sides. Using the trio of Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Sproles, the Saints have been the eighth-best rushing team this season. The balance makes Brees even more dangerous by forcing opposing defenses to honor the run, which keeps the pressure off Brees. Meanwhile, the Lions have had injuries to running backs Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith, leaving the offense more or less one dimensional. As a result, defenses have been able to blitz and hit Stafford on a regular basis, leading to a lot of the turnovers that have plagued the Lions in recent weeks.

There is a good chance that the Lions are walking into a buzz saw Sunday night. The Saints are healthy and firing on all cylinders, and more importantly, they are scoring more than 40 points per game at home. Meanwhile, Detroit is missing its best defender and is struggling to find a rhythm on offense. The New Orleans defense isn’t good enough to completely shutdown Stafford, but the Saints are too good on offense for the Lions to keep pace.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints (-8 ½) Cover the Spread

Free NFL Football Picks and Predictions: New Orleans -8.5

Week 13 NFL Football: Detroit @ New Orleans
Date: 12/4/011
Time: 8:30 PM EST on NBC
Vegas Odds - Favorite: New Orleans -8.5 | Total: Over/Under 53.5

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