Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lions Congregation: Reflections

Welcome once again to the Lions Congregation! Bloggers from across the Savanna congregate to bring you their thoughts on the Lions. Have a question? Email lionscongregation@yahoo.com

Al at The Wayne Fontes Experience

1. What was your favorite game of the season to watch?

I could say it was the win over the Chiefs, as I realized I was watching a playoff contender destroy a 2010 playoff team. I was tempted to say the victory over the Broncos in Denver, just because of the destruction of TEBOW. I could go with one of the ridiculous comeback wins over the Vikings, Cowboys, Panthers and Raiders, and it wouldn't raise anyone's eyebrows. 

But I have to go with the victory over the Chargers, for one reason only. The win clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years (though it felt more like 12 decades). The Lions were at home, the offense was clicking, Matthew Stafford was playing the elite QB we all hoped he'd become, the defense had turned things around (for a couple of weeks, anyway) and no one wanted to see them have to win in Green Bay in order to make the playoffs. So going into the game it just felt as if the result was fait accompli. The Lions were going to win.

Despite the Chargers having a talented team, the game wasn't really in question and the team got to celebrate with a formerly suffering, now deliriously happy, fan base. All was well in the world for a few hours. 

You cannot ask from more than that from a victory.

2. What were your 3 favorite plays of the season?

3.  Late in the Chargers win, Cliff Avril picked off Phillip Rivers and strolled into the end zone from 4 yards out for spectacular pick 6. The leaping, one-handed interception set off a huge celebration, as the score essentially cliched a playoff spot.

2.  My favorite offensive play of the season was Calvin Johnson catching a 6-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford with 39 seconds left against the Raiders, finishing off a beyond clutch 98-yard drive. The hopes and dreams of a playoff season were on the line, and the Lions came through in a way we couldn't have imagined a few years ago. All I could do was channel Vin Scully and say, "I can't believe what I just saw!"

1. This is my favorite play of the season, period. The Lions are in Oakland, up by one with under0:20 left. The Raiders are driving, kicker Sebastian Janikowski is warming up his All-Pro leg on the sidelines. Carson Palmer drops back to pass, and every fan on the planet thinks the Raiders will drive deep enough into Lions' territory to give Janikowski a very reasonable shot at a game winning field goal. In Jankowski's case, anything within 55 yards can be considered reasonable. 

But Avril roars in from left end, drops an axe handle on the quarterback (nearly forcing a fumble) and sacks Palmer with 0:13 on the clock. The Raiders run one more play (an incomplete pass) and ultimately settle for a 65 yard field goal attempt, which Ndamukong Suh blocks. Lions win, have a 9-5 record and get an inside track on a playoff spot! 

If Avril doesn't sack Palmer, all sort of bad things happen. Janikowski is likely trying a kick that's at least 10 yards shorter. He doesn't have to drill the ball low to get max distance, making it that much harder to block. With that in mind, odds are he makes the kick, beating the Lions. How does the season plays out if the Lions don't win the game? I'm thinking the season just may have ended badly. But it didn't, much in thanks Avril's game saving sack

NetRat at NetRat Detroit Lions Blog

1. What was your favorite game of the season to watch?

1.  I enjoyed all the Lions games this year.  My favorite though has to be Christmas Eve against the Chargers when they sealed their playoff spot.  Good opponent, pressures on, and the Lions win the game playing hard.  Bodes well for the future.
 
2. What were your 3 favorite plays of the season?

2.  My 3 favorite plays?  Holy cow, that's not an easy question.  Avril's TD was definitely one of them.  Suh just barely getting a piece of the attempted field goal at the end of the Oakland game to save the win (and prevent a record setting field goal for distance) is another.  The rest are all a blur... so many to choose from.  Stafford shattered the TD record by any Lions QB ever, CJ and Pettigrew broke records too, then there's the comebacks and the total destruction of the Bronco's... my 3rd favorite play then has to be a tie between roughly 231 other plays.

Blades Boyd, ROTL Contributor

1. What was your favorite game of the season to watch?

With so many great games this, I'm going to go out of the box here a little and say it was the second Vikings-Lions matchup played at Ford Field. This game had everything from int's returned for TD's, sacks and big plays. But the real reason I choose this game is because it was when I finally began to accept this isn't the "same old lions."  Everything about this game was hinting the lions would blow the big lead and when the Vikes were marching at the end of the game, I was 100% sure the Lions would blow it. When the Lions stopped them and won that game, I had this immense feeling of relief and joy. I was finally able to say, "maybe these aren't the same old Lions!!!" 

2. What were your 3 favorite plays of the season?

2. #3- Bobby Carpenter's pick 6 vs Dallas. Just an unreal play. 

   #2- Titus Young diving grab against the Chiefs. A play that most people might overlook but it was on a 3rd and 24, and Stafford threw a rope to Young who made a diving catch in double coverage for the first down. In only his second game, you could see the potential. I can't wait to see this kid in another two years. He's going to be a good one if he keeps his head on straight.

 #1. Calvin Johnson's catch against Dallas. Don't think I need to say much else.

Joshua, DetFan1979 of ROTL

1. What was your favorite game of the season to watch?

There were so many outstanding games this season that I had a very hard time deciding. There was more exceptional Detroit Lions Football played this season than in the last decade!  I guess, in the end I'll have to go with the Chiefs game early in the season.  

Thinking back to the end of the infamous 0-16 season (0-whatever according to Leslie Frazier) many fans, myself included were calling for Scott Pioli to "save" the franchise.  It was sweet, then, to see the Lions rip apart an inferior opponent -- and knowing that it was the Lions on the path to a future of sustained playoff appearances while the Chiefs were heading back to the drawing board.  How many times had I seen this before -- only it was always the Lions on the losing end.  Not. Any. More. 

It was a great feeling. 

2. What were your 3 favorite plays of the season?

Three? Just three? After this season? Talk about Herculean.  

#3.  Jahvid Best 88 yard touchdown run versus Chicago.  After how many times I've seen plays like that break open a game against the Lions it was beyond satisfying to see the Lions do it for a change. 

#2.  Bobby Carpenter pick-6 versus Dallas.  It was an amazing play just to get the pick, but what was just as impressive was how the rest of the defense suddenly came alive and blocked down on the offense, opening the lane into the end zone.  It was my favorite comeback win of the season (and there were plenty)

#1.  Calvin Johnson's final second TD catch in the Oakland game.  It wasn't so much the play itself as what it embodied. A surgical, determined comeback with time speeding away on the play clock - and closing the deal.  This was no Marcus Pollard slide for a non-TD and yet another moral victory. It was Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson for the win -- and a preview of the bright future of the best WR in football catching passes from one of the best young QB's in the game.  And they are both Detroit Lions!

Conclusion

Thank you once again for joining the Lions Congregation! Normally appearing every Friday this week was late because someone forgot to hit the publish button. See you again on Friday!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lions Congregation: Playoff Wrap Up

Since we have a whole ifseason ahead of us to look back, the congregation is this week taking a look at a couple of questions that kept cropping up about the playoff loss to New Orleans.  Then, we debate reader J. Berger's question of who is our 2011 Lions MVP.  


For those new to this page, the Lions Congregation is a collection of Lions Bloggers (some past, some present) from around the web looking at issues and questions about our Detroit Lions - each from their own unique perspective.  Have a question or topic?  Email the Lions Congregation!


The Panel:


Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience
NetRat of The NetRat Detroit Lions site and blog (also our resident capologist)
Zac of The Sidelion Report
Jeff - Special Guest and founder of the Lions Congregation
Blades Boyd - founding member and resident contrarian at Roar of the Lions
Joshua aka DetFan1979 - Your humble host at Roar of the Lions


Due to some readers who indicated that the congregation answers ran together too easily, I am going to give each author their own section with all three of their answers lumped together this week, versus gathering all the panelists' responses by question.  Please let me know which format you prefer!  


Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience



1. While many have questioned various aspects of coaching in the game, how about Jim Schwartz and his non-challenges? Specifically, the egregious spot on 3rd and 11, as well as whether Brees was stopped by forward progress since he pulled the ball back on his own - and fumbled it while doing so to boot. Should he have challenged either or both of these?

I'm not going to get on Schwartz's case over the use/non-use of challenges. Why? Because the whole damn replay system is broken. Hell, the rules are broken to the point where I don't know what is or isn't a fumble or a touchdown any more. 

How an NFL head coach can and can't use challenges is ridiculous. A play called a touchdown receives an automatic booth review. If the same play isn't called a touchdown, it can't be reviewed without a challenge. Uh...WHAT? That is rule making at it's most, well, idiotic.

NFL coaches shouldn't have to depend upon the whims of the TV networks in order to get a good enough view to determine if a challenge is a good idea. And that's just what happened, especially on the worst spot ever. The refs kept the game moving, not allowing Schwartz time to make an informed decision...or even an educated guess.

Say the play in question was the Saints getting a 1st down, but Schwartz challenging what was a correct spot despite not having concrete evidence to the contrary. We'd be getting out the torches and pitchforks. Do you really want the head coach in a playoff game making half-assed challenges?

Anyone saying Schwartz should have thrown the challenge flag isn't being fair. On the 2 plays mentioned, Schwartz was caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock being a specious challenge system and the hard place incompetent refereeing.

2. How much of an impact do you feel the "inadvertent whistle" negating a fumble return TD was both on the tone and final outcome of the game?

When the play first happened, I was damned upset. How the Saints would have played when 21-7 down would have differed compared to 14-7. The Saints would have been back on their heels. But thinking about it, I don't think the Lions win even if they were given the TD. The Saints are that damn good. The score would have looked a little better in the history books, nothing more. 

If I'm going to throw blame around (and why the Hell not?), once again fingers must be pointed at incompetent refereeing. Why the whistle was blown is beyond me. You would think referees would not blow a play dead if there is any chance the ball could still be in play. In this case, it was cut and dry. There was a very good possibility the ball was live. Yet the refs still blew it...the whistle and the ruling.

3. Who is your 2011 Lions MVP - Stafford, Johnson or Tulloch?

Stephen Tulloch is unquestionably the defensive MVP. The Lions best get him signed to a multi-year deal, post haste. But I digress...

To answer the question; as good as Megatron was, and he was great, Matthew Stafford was better. 

Yes, Calvin Johnson's numbers were All-Pro worthy. But Stafford's numbers were at historic levels. Levels we couldn't have imagined, let alone seen, as Lions fans. Stafford shattered every Lions' single season passing record. He became only the 4th quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 5000 yards. Don't forget leading 4 comebacks from 13 or more points down, something which has never been done in NFL history. 
The Lions made the playoffs because Stafford played at an elite level. Period. If he doesn't, the Lions aren't in 
New Orleans last weekend. 

Give Matthew Stafford the team MVP. 

NetRat of The NetRat Detroit Lions site and blog 

1. While many have questioned various aspects of coaching in the game, how about Jim Schwartz and his non-challenges? Specifically, the egregious spot on 3rd and 11, as well as whether Brees was stopped by forward progress since he pulled the ball back on his own - and fumbled it while doing so to boot. Should he have challenged either or both of these?

I don't know who is in charge of telling the coaching staff to challenge, I assume there is someone who's job it is to quickly check the play for that kind of thing.  We get the benefit of super slow-mo replay and hindsight (as we dwell on things) but with whatever tools the Lions have they might've been unsure at the time if a challenge was winnable or they might have been saving them for something really big later (if needed).  As for the forward progress thing, at the time I thought first down... it was only later that I heard it might not have been.

2. How much of an impact do you feel the "inadvertent whistle" negating a fumble return TD was both on the tone and final outcome of the game?

 The inadvertent whistle was par for the year in officiating.  The Lions were lucky to get possession at all (and then did nothing with it).  I've seen them whistle a play dead and not allow the turnover.  The officiating that affected the game the most were the non-calls on holding by the O-Lines.  When your entire defense is predicated on interior pass rush and the OLine can hold as much as they want you have effectively disabled the defense and made it useless.  Letting the players play backfired for the Lions in that game.

3. From J Berger: Who is your 2011 Lions MVP - Stafford, Johnson or Tulloch?

My vote for the 2011 Lions MVP is Matt Stafford.  Broke the Lions yardage record, TD record, passing attempts record and pass completions record... and is only the 4th QB in the history of the NFL to reach 5,000 yards in a single season.  The Lions have been around a long time and this was a serious uptick in the record books.  This record may or may not ever be broken, but if it is, it'll probably be by Matt Stafford (in some future year).


1. While many have questioned various aspects of coaching in the game, how about Jim Schwartz and his non-challenges? Specifically, the egregious spot on 3rd and 11, as well as whether Brees was stopped by forward progress since he pulled the ball back on his own - and fumbled it while doing so to boot. Should he have challenged either or both of these?

While many have questioned various aspects of coaching in the game, how about Jim Schwartz and his non-challenges? Specifically, the egregious spot on 3rd and 11, as well as whether Brees was stopped by forward progress since he pulled the ball back on his own - and fumbled it while doing so to boot. Should he have challenged either or both of these?

-Since each team get's two maybe it would have been worth challenging either of those plays but I think they would have been low percentage challenges. Certain things have a tendency to be overblown in the wake of a loss and I think that is the case here. With the recent challenge history in mind (Green Bay), I can see why Schwartz would want to hold on to the red flag rather than taking a low percentage flier on a play in the middle of the field.

2. How much of an impact do you feel the "inadvertent whistle" negating a fumble return TD was both on the tone and final outcome of the game?

How much of an impact do you feel the "inadvertent whistle" negating a fumble return TD was both on the tone and final outcome of the game?
-The fan in me hated seeing that opportunity lost as a result of an inadvertent whistle but I don't believe a fumble return for a touchdown would have changed the outcome of the game. There are just too many things the Lions did poorly that they did have control over to lay much blame on the officials; namely, the defense's inability to force a punt. The possibility that it would have changed the tone of the game only holds water if one believes the defense could have gotten a few stops and the Lions could have run the ball effectively. There was no evidence in that game to suggest that either would have happened.

3. From J Berger: Who is your 2011 Lions MVP - Stafford, Johnson or Tulloch?

-It's easily Matthew Stafford. Of the three I immediately boil it down to a choice between Stafford and Johnson and decided based on the "V" in MVP. While Megatron was certainly valuable in terms of the success of the offense, it was Stafford who had the noticeable statistical disparity between wins and losses. To me, the definition of "valuable" ultimately comes down to wins and losses and there was no Lion whose performance determined wins and losses more than Matthew Stafford. Considering the Lions won more than they lost, Stafford gets the nod as team MVP.

Jeff - Special Guest and founder of the Lions Congregation

1. While many have questioned various aspects of coaching in the game, how about Jim Schwartz and his non-challenges? Specifically, the egregious spot on 3rd and 11, as well as whether Brees was stopped by forward progress since he pulled the ball back on his own - and fumbled it while doing so to boot. Should he have challenged either or both of these?

Yes, both of those plays should have been challenged. The Brees first down called back could have been a momentum changer for us. I know he only had two flags but could have used on there for sure.

2. How much of an impact do you feel the "inadvertent whistle" negating a fumble return TD was both on the tone and final outcome of the game?

Huge impact. Lions would have scored on that play, putting them up 21-7. Another momentum changer that could have won us the game. The overall officiating this season was abysmal, many bad calls, no calls and the refs looked like they didn’t know all the rules all season. Didn’t help with the image the Lions were starting to get with the personal fouls and it seemed like they were calling stuff on the Lions and favoring the opposition, not calling same type penalties on them.

3. From J Berger: Who is your 2011 Lions MVP - Stafford, Johnson or Tulloch?

I have to go with Stafford. He played exceptionally well, garnering over 5k yards and setting many Lions records. He definitely played like a franchise QB, just what he was drafted for. Can’t wait to see how improvements made this year helps him in the future. They need to resign CJ badly (PAY THE MAN!) and get other weapons for him. Best and Leshoure coming back and, hopefully, keeping K-Smith will help greatly.

Blades Boyd - founding member & resident contrarian 

1. While many have questioned various aspects of coaching in the game, how about Jim Schwartz and his non-challenges? Specifically, the egregious spot on 3rd and 11, as well as whether Brees was stopped by forward progress since he pulled the ball back on his own - and fumbled it while doing so to boot. Should he have challenged either or both of these?

Let me start by saying even if Schwartz did challenge and win, I don't think it would have mattered. Saints still would have won because they pretty much went for it and got it every time they had a 4th down.

That being said, there is absolutely no doubt those plays should have been challenged and yes Schwartz messes up big time by not doing so. But should he criticized for it??? Not at all. Keep in mind, he's done something that a lot of REALLY good coaches couldn't do (Bobby Ross and Mooch to name a few) and that's get the Lions back to the playoffs and have a winning season. Schwartz will learn from this game and next time, I'm sure you will see a challenge flag tossed on those plays. 

If any coach needs to be questioned it's Gunther Cunningham. I have not liked his play calling all season and he really got exposed the last few weeks. He blitzed a total of four times in the game which result in the Willie Young forced fumble, one incompletion and one hurry. The rest of the game he sat back and while the Saints were in max protection, Breed just picked them apart. Gunther has really showed his age this season and is beginning to get out of touch with the changing NFL. Unfortunately, he's Schwartz's mentor and will be stuck with him for a while. (I wish they'd go after Steve Spagnola)

2. How much of an impact do you feel the "inadvertent whistle" negating a fumble return TD was both on the tone and final outcome of the game?

Like I said before, I don't think any play had a major impact on the game. Say the lions had an extra 14 points in the game, they still lose. Sorry to be that straight forward about it but it is just that simple.

3. From J Berger: Who is your 2011 Lions MVP - Stafford, Johnson or Tulloch?

As good of a season Stafford had, Calvin is the MVP. In my opinion, we probably still would have made the playoffs without Stafford. There isn't a chance we make the playoffs without Calvin. I know some people disagree with me but look at the stats. During the 5-0 run, CJ had a touchdown in every game and close to 100 yards. During the up and down stretch in the middle of the season? Calvin wasn't scoring and was averaging 68.5 yards a game. At the end of the season when we were winning again, he averaged over 100 yards a game and over a TD a game. That in itself proves to me anyway, he should get some votes for league MVP, not just the Lions MVP.

Joshua aka DetFan1979 - Your humble host at Roar of the Lions

1. While many have questioned various aspects of coaching in the game, how about Jim Schwartz and his non-challenges? Specifically, the egregious spot on 3rd and 11, as well as whether Brees was stopped by forward progress since he pulled the ball back on his own - and fumbled it while doing so to boot. Should he have challenged either or both of these?

Based on how the officials were calling the game, I don't think that either call would have been overturned, and obviously neither did Jim Schwartz.  The crew calling the game was "letting 'em play" and those calls were just part of it.  

I will say, that whole attitude cost the Lions ANY chance they had of winning the game against New Orleans.  The Saints defense is based around the blitz -- so not calling offensive holding really had little to no impact on how they played the game. 

For the Lions, however, it was the exact opposite.  They count on the skills and aggressiveness of their front four to create pressure on the quarterback.  That is impossible if the offensive line is allowed to hold as egregiously as it was in that playoff game.  So while the ref's may have been "letting players be players" in this case it created a huge disadvantage for a Lions team that already needed a near perfect game under normal circumstances to pull out a win. 

2. How much of an impact do you feel the "inadvertent whistle" negating a fumble return TD was both on the tone and final outcome of the game?

Crazy enough, this stupid whistle was the ONE time all game the referees did NOT let the players play it out -- and this is the one time in the game it would have been advantage Lions.  

First off, let me be clear: With how the game was being called (see above answer) and how well New Orleans' offense was playing I do not think that this call would have effected the outcome of the game.  

I do, however, feel that it would have dramatically changed the "story" of the game.  Themes coming out of the game are how the Lions didn't turn either turnover into points -- they did, but they were essentially taken away.  I also feel the emotional hit to the Lions defense and corresponding scare and then boost to New Orleans is what allowed the Saints to pull away like they did.  

If the Saints were up by 3 vs 10 later in the game -- or 10 vs 17 -- then Stafford likely doesn't have at least one of the INT's as he was really pressing knowing they didn't have time.  I still think they try the onside just the same, and that the Saints win a shoot out -- it just would have been a much closer shootout that would have answered more questions about the Lions and raised more questions about the Saints.  

As it was, I haven't seen a defense fielded this season that I truly feel would have been able to stop New Orleans on Saturday.  Matthew Stafford was playing at an elite level making some mind boggling throws.  Unfortunately, Drew Brees was playing a level above that whatever you want to call it, and some of his throws were enough to make you hit replay about 5 times on the DVR just to be sure what you were seeing happened.  

3. From J Berger: Who is your 2011 Lions MVP - Stafford, Johnson or Tulloch?

All three of these players certainly had a huge impact on 2011.  The way I look at it is what is the drop-off to that player's backup, and how much would it have effected their win-loss record.  While Tulloch defintely filled the middle far better than anyone we've seen in the last 8 years (Paris Lenon anyone?) I feel like maybe a one game swing without him.  

Calvin Johnson had one of the truly great seasons for a wide receiver in the NFL ever.  Period.  However, he was essentially healthy until the last couple of weeks -- when he still put up over 200 yards/game in the finale and playoffs.  

This brings me to Stafford.  When he was healthy at the start of the season and the end of the season the Lions offense was beyond humming -- it was a finely tuned machine of point scoring on par with Green Bay, New Orleans, and New England.  When his finger was broken mid-season, the whole team became more inconsistent.  

Basically, as goes Stafford so goes the Lions -- for good or ill.  For me, this makes him the MVP even more than his numerous and now well documented records he broke this season.  

Wrap-Up

Thank you for joining us once again!  The Lions Congregation will be posted Friday evenings once again each week.  So join us reading, commenting, or sending us questions to the lionscongregation@yahoo.com -- or hopefully, all three!!

Do you agree with the panelists?  Disagree? Let us know!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Playoff Food

The Next Generation

> My Nephew, DetFan2011, is also excited for the Detroit Lions playoff game tonight!
>

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lions Congregation: Inaugural Playoff Edition!

Welcome to the return of the Lions Congregation for the Inaugural playoff edition!  From the look of things, this could be one of many playoff editions to come in the years ahead!
 
Just like before, Lions Bloggers from around the web gather to discuss your questions about the Detroit Lions.  Want to see your question featured?  Email lionscongregation@yahoo.com
 
Today's Panel:
 
NetRat of The NetRat Detroit Lions site and blog
Blades Boyd - resident contrarian for Roar of the Lions
Joshua - DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions
 
 
Question 1:  Based on the Lions active roster in their meeting versus who should be active and healthy on Saturday, how do you feel the Lions defense will stack up versus the Saints?
 
NetRat:  Better than last time, all things being equal (which they probably aren't).  Last time we played New Orleans Chris Houston did not play. Neither did Delmas or Suh. Fairley left after the 1st quarter.  IF those guys are all healthy and can play the whole game the Lions defense may be able to get a couple more stops, and that should mean a few more stalled drives (and really, most games, that's all it takes).
 
Zac:  Any defense is at a disadvantage against the Saints offense. While the Lions look to have the benefit of a healthy defensive roster, their ability to hang with the Saints will come down to execution, not personnel. If the Lions look to wrap up and tackle rather than just hitting then they can limit the damage. This is especially true with Darren Sproles who can turn a minimal gain into something big in a flash.
Al:  First off, I refuse to get overly worked up by Matt Flynn throwing for a gazillion yards, or the media talking heads who claim, "If a backup can throw 6 TDs against Detroit, Brees will throw for 20!" Flynn isn't your typical backup quarterback. He's a good quarterback who happens to be a backup to the best in the NFL. Flynn would start for half the league. What I am worked up about is the lack of a pass rush against Flynn, allowing him to pick apart the Lions' secondary at will.

The Lions may be healthier than they've been in weeks, but if there is only a minimal pass rush from the front four, an empty trainer's room won't make a difference.  Even if they are fully healthy, I'm not expecting big things from the Lions defense.

The Lions may be healthier than they've been in weeks, but if there is only a minimal pass rush from the front four, an empty trainer's room won't make a difference.  Even if they are fully healthy, I'm not expecting big things from the Lions defense.

All of which is my long-winded way of saying the Lions' chances rest on the shoulders of the defensive line. The front four must have a big game, pressuring Brees in a big way. The Lions aren't going to keep Brees from throwing for 300 yards. Few defenses are capable of it, and the Lions' aren't one of them. But they can minimize the damage by creating turnovers. How do you create turnovers? To channel my inner Al Davis, you must hit the quarterback early, often and hard.

After seeing little to no pass rush against the Packers, I'm not confident at all as to how the Lions match up against the Saints high powered offense. 

It's simple. If the Lions don't win the turnover battle, they won't beat the Saints. The Lions must fluster, or at least annoy Brees, Otherwise, it's going be a long, long evening for Lions fans.
Blades:  I think Schwartz made it perfectly clear who you will being seeing active Saturday night. He mentioned he would not bench any players based on last Sundays game. That being said, with the return of Delmas, I think Alphonso Smith should be worried.
  
The Lions defense shapes up extremely poorly against the Saints offense. The Saints strength is clearly in the passing game and there isn't a single player on the Lions roster who can cover Jimmy Graham or Colston. Also, no lions DB has the speed to run with Moore or Meachem.
 The other thing that few people are talking about is the Saints have two all pro guards which means they can shift protection to the outside and really stymy the pass rush. I fully expect Gunther to blitz up the middle more than we've seen all season. I expect the saints to double team Suh and single block the other DT with their all pro guard. As a result, the RB's will be protecting to the outside and if the lions blitz up the middle, they will come in unblocked.
 
DetFan1979:  The defense will give up points.  Make no mistake – this is a meeting of two of the top four offenses in the league and they will both put up some TD’s.  The key will be doing what they almost did in their first meeting with the Saints – slow down the Saint’s offense more than they are slowing down the Detroit Offense. 
 
Nick Fairley was getting good penetration and disruption before leaving the game with his injured foot – after that is when the Saints started scoring.  Seeing as the Lions were down by three linemen that game I expect the pressure to come much stronger, and more consistently than in the first meeting between the teams. 
 
As for the secondary, I seriously said the day before the first New Orleans game that with Houston and Delmas out along with the other injuries in our secondary Green Bay should have put up 50 on the Lions – and that Drew Brees should do the same.  However, it took a late game icing TD after the Lions had already committed ritual suicide via penalties to salt the game away. 
 
With everyone relatively healthy (all participated in practice Thursday) I fully expect a better showing from the Lions defense – especially playing motivated after laying an egg last week.  Will it be good enough?  That’s why they play the games.
 
Question 2:  Based on the Lions active roster in their meeting versus who should be active and healthy on Saturday, how do you feel the Lions Offense will stack up versus the Saints?
 
NetRat:  Last time we played New Orleans it was the first game Matt Stafford played without the glove.  His confidence probably wasn't real high and his finger probably wasn't fully healed.  Meanwhile, Titus Young has started playing better and Pettigrew is being used more.  For that matter, CJ is taking on more too lately.  Turnovers will decide the game most likely, if they favor the Lions or are equal, it should be a great game (for Lions fans).
 
Zac:  The Lions offense moved the ball in their first meeting with the Saints and we should expect them to do so again. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have played their best ball since the first meeting so it will be fun to see what they can do in a rematch, especially if the Lions handle the blitz-happy Saints' pressure. Kevin Smith also figures to be healthier this time around and any explosion he can give them in the running game will be a bonus.
 
Al:  I expect big things from the offense. Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say I expect big things from Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Stafford has been a huge roll since removing the glove protecting his broken finger, averaging 383 yards and 3 TDs in the final 5 games. Megatron woke from a mid-season slump (doing little against the Packers, Saints and Vikings)m and is now playing like his dominant self, averaging 187 yards in the season's final 3 games. I don't expect the Saints to slow either of them down. 

Brandon Pettigrew also needs to play well, and he'll get more than his fair share of opportunities. Stafford loves to throw to his TEs, especially in the red zone (11 TDs combined between Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler) But Pettigrew also has to keep drops to a bare minimum....or don't drop a pass period. The Lions won't have a margin for error in a winner take all situation. They have to capitalize on their opportunities.

A healthy Kevin Smith would come in handy as well. He's the closest thing to an impact runner on the Lions' roster. And there will come a time when the Lions will need to keep the Saints' defense honest with the occasional hand off to Smith. As much as I'd like Stafford to throw 70 times a game (all to Megatron), it's not realistic.

If the wide outs and TEs play as well have they have in the final quarter of the season, the Lions won't have any trouble scoring points on Saturday. They will move the ball. It's just a matter of capitalizing on their red zone opportunities.
DetFan1979Matthew Stafford is 100% healthy and playing like it.  I mentioned earlier this week how Stafford became one of only four quarterbacks ever to surpass 5000 yards in a season. He accomplished that despite a broken index finger on his throwing hand that obviously hampered him for a solid 4-5 games.  As it is, as John Madden used to say incessantly about Brett Favre “It looks like he’s having fun out there.”  We all know what that meant – it meant that Brett was making throw after seemingly impossible throw and racking up yards and points in bunches. Imagine how much fun he would have had with Randy Moss on his team?
 
Guess what?  That is exactly what Stafford has been doing – only he does have Calvin Johnson. They are both clicking and confident in themselves and each other like they were in the 5 game win streak.  Only better.  And to add to it Brandon Pettigrew is playing excellent, and Nate Burleson has been taking advantage.
 
The biggest xfactor to me this game for the Lions offense are Kevin Smith and Titus Young.  Titus has taken his game to a whole new level since embarrassing himself at New Orleans the first game.  As for Smith, he wasn’t healthy for the first New Orleans game.  If he is, watch out Gregg Williams because Smith is one of the best in the league when it comes to picking up the blitz and protecting his QB. It has always been a strong point for him, and now he too has been playing better than he ever did in his first go round with the Lions. 
 
Question 3:  How do you feel this mostly young, emotional team will fare under the pressure of a high profile playoff game?   (coach Schwartz included)?
 
NetRat:   The problem with highly emotional young teams is you don't know how they will handle the pressure.  The crowd noise is going to be tremendous and that might help make the players forget the pressure somewhat.  Raiola is going to really be after the O players to perform (it's his first playoff game in the NFL after all).  KVB will do much the same on the D... and Delmas chatters all game long no matter what (the Lions opponents have scored nearly 100 yards less yardage in the games he has played in).  Hanson is likely to get a workout but he should be fine.  My prediction which I made last Saturday night in my blog is the Lions win this game 30-28, the next day Vegas set the over/under at 58 1/2, which I found scary odd.
 
Zac:  I see the Lions' biggest problems in this game being between the lines, not between the ears. If we can't have confidence in this team knowing the stakes are high and acting appropriately then we don't have any reason to watch the game on Saturday. It will be up to the leaders with playoff experience (coaches included) to prepare the rest of the differences of playoff football and how to keep the emotions in check.
 
Al:  The Saints have been to the playoffs before, and won it all. The Lions....well, we know all about their checkered  past.

So there will be a stupid penalty or three by the Lions. It's a given. It's their nature. But I don't expect to the Lions to embarrass themselves either, unlike we saw go down during their first meeting with the Saints.

The Lions realized they were throwing a shot at the playoffs away after their nationally televised back to back mental meltdowns. They have been relatively well behaved since...thank goodness.

But I do expect to see the team show some nerves, especially in the 1st quarter. For most of the Lions, it'll be their first exposure playoff pressure. Jitters and butterflies are to be expected.

I'm not worried about Jim Schwartz's mental state.  He's been in the playoffs before as defensive coordinator with the Titans (6 games in 4 appearances, winning 2), making it to the AFC Championship in 2002. He knows what to expect...though I'm sure he'll be on edge.

To be honest, I am still worried the Lions themselves will snap, and do something stupid...like get in a sideline shouting match, throw a punch, shove a ref or stomp on a player. They've kept their emotions in check since their implosion 5 weeks ago. My fear is we'll see another if calls and bounces don't go their way. It's Schwartz's job to prevent it.
Blades:  No matter what happens Saturday night, whether we win by 10 or lose by 30, who cares. Despite what some people thought, this team was expected to go 8-8 and if you asked any lions fan before the season, "Hey, if the season were to end today, would you be happy with an 8-8 record?" Every fan would tell you not only would they be happy with it, they would throw a parade on the streets of Detroit in honor of the Schwartz. This team is still two years away from seriously competing. We need a capable secondary and a little more depth.
 If you've followed me through the years, you know how critical I am about the Lions. But you won't hear that now. No matter what happens Saturday, WE'RE THE LIONS AND WE'RE IN THE FREAKIN' PLAYOFFS BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!
DetFan1979:  I was really worried about this – until last week at Green Bay.  I’m literally half blind and I could have done a better job out there on more than one egregious call.  Yet, despite the frustration and the setbacks none of the Lions lost their cool – except Alphonso Smith, who was benched.  I’m not sure how many noticed but it wasn’t just that he was gambling, he was not in control of his emotions at all and I think that is also a major reason he got yanked. 
 
Ever since coming home from the Superdome last month, this has been a different team.  They were thoroughly embarrassed – twice – on national television when it was finally their chance to shine on a big stage and earn respect with their play.  Instead, they came off looking like an immature teen puffing out his chest acting like he’s da man.  No one likes that feeling.  Especially not a professional. 
 
I think we’ve all been there at least once in our lives (I know I have!) and you can do one of two things: Pout about it, or man up and do something about it.  This young team has shown they chose the second path so far. If they stay on it, I can see this game being really close.
 
Either way, I’m expecting an exciting electrifying game.
 
WRAP UP:  Thank you to our participating bloggers, and of course to you our readers. Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and questions in the comments section.  Dialogue is one of the most fun aspects of being a blogger.  If you would like the whole congregation to address your question, thought, or idea please email lionscongregation@yahoo.com
 
Thank you and enjoy the game!!