This week’s edition of NFL Monday Night Football is arguably the least-anticipated MNF showdown of the season. The 5-8 New Orleans Saints — mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, holding last place in the NFC South — host the 4-9 Detroit Lions, who are in the exact same position in the NFC North. On the surface, it looks like a game worth missing.
But, here are five things to remind you that the Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints game could, indeed, be epic.
Megatron May Hit An Epic Landmark In His Career
As noted by NFL.com, Calvin Johnson has been flirting with the 1,000-yard mark for a couple of weeks now. A mere 19 receiving yards in tonight’s game would mark the sixth consecutive year that Johnson hits quadruple digits on the season. No longer the Calvin Johnson of old, it’s certainly not unthinkable that this season could be the last time he adds to that streak.
Tim Hightower Is Making An Epic Comeback
Before the Saints played Tampa Bay just eight days ago, the last time Tim Hightower had played a single down of NFL football was October 16, 2011. In his first game back, he managed 85 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown to boot. It could have been a fluke; it’s not like the Buccaneers are an elite team this year. But, the Lions have an even worse record than the Bucs, so who knows what we’ll see from Hightower this week. If he can finish the rest of the season strong, he may not have to wait four more years to earn a starting spot on an NFL roster.
The Last Primetime Game of the Brees-Payton Era Could Be Epically Good…
It wasn’t that long ago that the New Orleans Saints, with the help of their current coach and quarterback, won the SuperBowl. As CBS Detroit commented, 2013 marked the fourth postseason for New Orleans in five years. While the glory days of the Brees-Payton era may be over, and it may come to an end completely after another dismal season, this could be one last time to see the combo demonstrate why they were so good in the not-so-distant past.
Drew Brees continues to be one of the most effective quarterbacks in the game, and there’s nothing special about the Lions’ pass defense that the Saints should be worried about. Both teams are adamant that they are playing this game to win, and if Drew Brees is on tonight, it’s possible that this will be his last game played in prime time. He’s averaging over 300 passing yards per game. Against a weak and morally defeated Detroit, he could have a huge night.
… Or It Could Prove That They’re Epically Bad
On the other hand, if Sean Payton and Drew Brees can’t pull off a win tonight, it could simply be evidence that the Saints are just a really bad team. A loss tonight would guarantee a losing season, making it a second losing season in a row, which hasn’t happened to the Saints since Payton took charge in 2006.
But, Drew Brees is out to win. When you’re trying to turn things around for an entire franchise, Brees insists that every game matters and that the Saints are taking this game very seriously.
“Confidence is gained from demonstrated ability. The more that you can demonstrate the ability to go out, execute a game plan, do the right thing, make the plays and win, you gain confidence. The more confidence you gain, that will carry on with you for your whole career. In many cases, it might just be a game, a moment or a play that is a turning point for a player in his career or a team, in regards to building the foundation of something.”
And while a big game out of Brees can’t save the Saints’ season, it could keep someone else’s postseason dreams alive: yours.
Your Fantasy Football Playoff Game Could Have An Epic Conclusion
With just two weeks of regular season play remaining, most fantasy football leagues are in their third or fourth week of the playoffs. If you or an opponent are starting anyone from the Lions or Saints this week, then your entire season could come down to how this game is played. Both QBs are projected to be within a point of two of 20 in the world of fantasy football, while Joique Bell of the Lions and Brandin Cooks are both expected to score in the low teens.
Don’t be surprised if Calvin Johnson or Tim Hightower play well beyond what’s been projected. You also needn’t worry about one team or the other tanking the game, showcasing younger talent now that the season is all-but-over for both sides. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell says he has no interest in anything but winning tonight, just as Brees said. Good news if you have any of their starters on your fantasy team — bad news if your opponent does.
Tonight’s NFL Monday Night Football, featuring the New Orleans Saints hosting the Detroit Lions, will air on ESPN at 8:30/7:30 central.
[Photos by Bob Levey, Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]