Detroit Lions: 3 key matchups for Week 4 versus New Orleans Saints

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions head into Week 4 after a big win over the Cardinals. Now, they face a talented New Orleans Saints team that has been decimated by injuries.

The Detroit Lions look to have an upper leg on the New Orleans Saints as they head into week four. The Saints will be without key starters, Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, and four others. This is an excellent opportunity for the Lions to get back to .500 going into the bye.

Despite all the injuries, the Saints will not be a pushover as they have a talented roster with a superstar in Alvin Kamara.

Here are key matchups for the Lions that they need to win, so that they can head into the bye on a high note.

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Detroit Lions key matchup #1: Jayron Kearse v.s. Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara is coming off a monster game and should be at the top of the Lions’ scouting report.

Slowing him down will require a total team effort, but expect Jayron Kearse to be matched up with often.

Kearse is coming off a suspension this week and is expected to replace Will Harris as the third safety.

He will need to be on his A-game in coverage to try and limit Kamara as a threat out of the backfield.

More importantly, he will need to tackle well to prevent Kamara from turning screen passes and check-downs into big plays.

If Kearse and the rest of the defense can limit Kamara’s big plays and force the Saint’s other weapons to beat them, their defense can have a good day.

Detroit Lions key matchup #2: Da’Shawn Hand v.s. Cesar Ruiz

Stopping Kamara in the rushing game is just as important as the passing game. Kamara was already great as a runner heading into this year, and this year, he significantly improved his ability to run between the tackles.

The interior of the defensive line will be instrumental in stopping those runs up the middle. Da’Shawn Hand and Danny Shelton played the best they had all year in Week 3, slowing down the Cardinal’s running game. Shelton has been pretty much absent for the Lions during 2020 season.

This week, Hand should be going up against Cesar Ruiz, who will be making his NFL debut this week. Hand needs to win this matchup against the inexperienced lineman to slow down the run game.

If he can do that, the Saints will be playing in 2nd, and 3rd and long all game, which puts a lot of pressure on aging Drew Brees.

Detroit Lions key matchup #3: T.J. Hockenson v.s. Alex Anzalone/ C.J. Gardner Johnson

The Saints will be without Janoris Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore, leaving them without their top two corners. The expected starters, P.J. Williams and Justin Hardee, are fine players but cannot be counted on to stop Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay in single coverage.

To stop them, the Saints will need to roll their safeties over to try and stop the dangerous wideouts. This will force everyone else to cover without any safety help. This creates an excellent opportunity for T.J. Hockenson to have a great game.

The Saints struggle mightily with covering tight ends, so expect Matthew Stafford to continue to rely on Hockenson as a reliable target on third down. If Anzalone and C.J. Gardner Johnson cannot contain Hockenson 1 on 1, it can provide Stafford a safety blanket and open up the offense for the whole team.

The Lions game plan should be relatively simple. On defense, they need to slow down Kamara to make Drew Brees and other weapons beat them. Brees is still a solid quarterback, but his arm strength has clearly declined, and does not threaten defenses as much down the field. On offense, they should look to throw the ball early, often against a depleted secondary.

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If the Detroit Lions can execute well, they could be in a good spot heading into the bye week off a big win.