Lions limp into New Orleans

After starting the 2011-12 campaign with a sparkling 5-0 ledger, the Detroit Lions have dropped four of their last six games heading into Sunday night’s NBC telecast at New Orleans against the Saints.

Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product have installed the Saints as nine-point home favorites, with the total set at a bloated 54.

Compounding Detroit’s losing skid is the club’s health, which is less than stellar, especially on defense.

Starting safety Louis Delmas, who has more tackles than any Detroit defensive back, will miss at least the next two games with a knee injury. Cornerback Chris Houston said his knee injury was improving, but is listed as “questionable” on the latest injury report.

The defensive line is also a concern thanks to the two-game suspension of Ndamukong Suh, who decided to practice his kicking skills on a Green Bay offensive lineman Thanksgiving Day. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson is also listed as “questionable” with a thigh injury.

Detroit’s offense has also not escaped the injury bug. Starting running back Jahvid Best is out for the season with a concussion. Kevin Smith, who had an excellent game two weeks ago against Carolina, is “out” with an ankle injury. That leaves the running game in the hands of third-string Maurice Morris.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has worn a glove on his throwing hand since breaking the tip of his finger against Denver on Oct. 30. The result has been disastrous, as Stafford has been picked off nine times in the last three games after being intercepted just four times in the first eight contests. He is schedule to take the gloves off for Sunday’s game.

The Lions haven’t played since Thanksgiving when they suffered a 27-15 setback against the defending champion Packers as four-point home underdogs. The non-cover lowered Detroit’s spread record to 6-4-1. However, the Lions are a nifty 3-1-1 ATS away from Ford Field.

The combined 42 points dipped well ‘under’ the 55-point closing total, snapping Detroit’s string of three straight ‘over’ games. Nevertheless, the ‘over’ is 7-4 in the club’s first 11 overall encounters and 5-0 on the road.

The Saints lead the NFL in total offense (449.6 yards). They are also first in passing (324.2) and third-down conversions (53.5 percent), and second in scoring (32.9 points). They also are coming off a game against the Giants at home Monday night where they averaged an eye-popping 8.4 yards per play en route to a 49-24 victory.

New Orleans easily covered as seven-point home favorites, which helped lift its spread record to 7-4 overall and 5-0 at home.

The combined 73 points soared above the 51-point closing total, enabling the ‘over’ to improve to 6-5 in the Saints’ first 11 outings.

Saints signal caller Drew Brees has known nothing but success against the Lions. He is 2-0 in his career, putting up 87 points, completing 75.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and one interception. The last time the Lions faced him, Opening Day 2009, he hit them for six touchdown passes en route to a 45-27 victory as a 14-point home favorite.


The Lions are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven road encounters, 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as an underdog and 10-4 in their last 14 matches against teams with a winning record. The ‘over’ is 5-0-1 in Detroit’s last six games as a road underdog and 16-7-1 in the club’s last 24 overall outings.

The Saints are 5-0 ATS in their last five home efforts, all in the favorite’s role. The Saints are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games as a favorite between 3 ½ and 10 points. The ‘under’ is also 5-2 during that span.

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