NFL Wild Card Picks: Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints Odds and Predictions – Free NFL Picks 1/7/11

Free NFL Wildcard Picks: Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints NFL Playoff Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on NBC 1/7/12: High-powered offenses and star quarterbacks will highlight the Wild Card matchup between the Detroit Lions (10-6) and New Orleans Saints (13-3). Fresh of shattering Dan Marino’s single-season record for passing yards, Drew Brees is trying to lead the Saints to their second Super Bowl since 2009. Meanwhile, former No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford has rewritten the Lions’ passing record book and has Detroit hoping for just its second play in the last five decades. After falling to New Orleans a few weeks ago by 14, the Lions are 10 ½-point underdogs in this weekend’s rematch.

Both offenses are downright scary. The Lions averaged just less than 30 points per game, while the Saints scored an impressive 34.2 a contest. Pass-happy is the best way to describe both systems, and Brees and Stafford both threw for more than 5,000 yards and more than 40 touchdowns. In any other year Stafford’s numbers would have made him the top QB in the league, but with Brees breaking several records, the edge has to go to New Orleans in the battle under center.

Neither side has a shortage of weapons to work with. Brees’ two favorite targets are tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Marques Colston. Graham finished the year with 99 catches for more than 1,300 yards and 11 scores. Meanwhile, Colston topped 1,100 yards despite missing several games with a broken collarbone. Not to mention the fact that running back Darren Sproles is an excellent pass catcher out of the backfield and broke the total yards from scrimmage record this season.

Stafford has a top notch tight end as well in Brandon Pettigrew, who finished the year with 83 catches. More importantly, he has the advantage of throwing to one of the best receivers in the NFL in Calvin Johnson. Johnson had 16 touchdowns among his 96 catches for a league-leading 1,681 yards. His combination of size and speed is probably the best at the position, making him tough to stop on deep routes and even harder to defend in the red zone. Brees probably has more weapons at his disposable, but Johnson gives Stafford the single best option.

Despite both offenses being able to dominate through the air, the Saints’ ability to run the ball sets them apart in this matchup. Led by Pierre Thomas and Sproles, New Orleans has been a top-10 rushing offense this year. By keeping Detroit honest with the run, the Saints will be able to neutralize the pass rush of the Lions. They will also be able to set up play-action passes and hit some big plays down the field. Meanwhile, Stafford will be forced to drop back on almost every down, subjecting him to plenty of blitz packages.

With an offensive shootout is the likely outcome, the defense that can create turnovers or make a stop or two could tip the scale in favor of their team. Unfortunately for the Lions, their secondary is coming off a game when it surrendered 480 yards and six touchdowns to Green Bay backup Matt Flynn. That doesn’t bode well heading into a matchup with the most prolific quarterback in the NFL this season, who happens to be the same QB that torched Detroit’s defense a little more than a month ago.

Playing at home, it’s tough not to love the Saints’ chances. New Orleans scored more than 40 points per game at home on its way to an 8-0 record. Only one of the eight victories came by less than 11 points, and that was a seven-point win in late September. Brees and company are a scoring machine inside the Superdome, and while Stafford and the Lions will put points on the board as well, they couldn’t keep pace with New Orleans in the regular season meeting and probably won’t be able to this weekend either.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints (-10 ½) Cover the Spread

Free NFL Football Picks and Predictions: New Orleans Saints -10.5

NFL Playoff Football: Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints
Date: 1/7/2012
Time: 8 PM EST on NBC
Vegas Odds Favorite: New Orleans -10.5 | Total: Over/Under 59

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