KICKOFF: Saturday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, Jesse Palmer
SERIES: 18th meeting. The teams are dead even at 8-8-1 after the first 17 games. The Lions have won the last two games, in New Orleans in the 2000 season and in 2002 in Detroit.
2005 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 27th (25th rush, 26th pass); defense 23rd (26th rush, 15th pass). Saints: offense 17th (15th rush, 17th pass); defense 17th (30th rush, 5th pass)
PREDICTION: Lions 21-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: Desire will play a big role between a pair of teams limping badly toward the finish line. QB Todd Bouman makes his second consecutive start for the Saints, and must do a better job of protecting the ball after throwing four interceptions against Carolina, contributing his share to New Orleans' league-high 39 turnovers. But Bouman is playing behind a banged up offensive line that could have trouble establishing a running game against stout Lions DTs Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson. Detroit's offense is turning back to QB Joey Harrington after interim coach Dick Jauron started Jeff Garcia the past three games. The Lions want to give him help by attacking the league's 30th-ranked run defense, but RB Kevin Jones' status is uncertain after missing last Sunday's game with an elbow injury. Until the Lions hurt the Saints on the ground, it will be up to Harrington to move the offense utilizing WRs Roy Williams and Charles Rogers.
FAST FACTS: Lions: Harrington needs 180 passing yards to become franchise's sixth career 10,000-yard passer. ... WR Roy Williams has six touchdown receptions in his past six games. Saints: Are 0-2 at the Alamodome this season. ... Are 29-5 (.853) under coach Jim Haslett when leading at halftime.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Lions CB Dre' Bly vs. Saints WR Donte' Stallworth and/or Joe Horn. Bly, a Pro Bowl alternate, had a day to forget against Cincinnati WR Chad Johnson last week and will try to add to his season total of six interceptions against whichever of the Saints WRs he lines up on.
Lions QB Joey Harrington vs. Saints SS Dwight Smith. Harrington is back in the starting role and has a full contingent of WRs at his disposal for one of the first times this season but Smith is a playmaker and probably will be eager to make plays against his hometown team.
Lions RT Kelly Butler vs. Saints LDE Will Smith. Butler has learned some lessons the hard way in his first season as the Lions starting RT; Smith could teach him a few more as he attempts to add to his team-leading 7 1/2 sacks.
--QB Joey Harrington has gotten most of the reps in practice this week as he prepares for his first start in a month Saturday when the Lions meet New Orleans at San Antonio. Harrington lost the starting job twice but played two of his better games between benchings and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to WR Charles Rogers when he came off the bench in the fourth quarter last Sunday against Cincinnati.
--WR Charles Rogers is getting a late-season chance to show his Lions teammates and management that he can still be the player they expected when they took him with the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft. Rogers had to work his way back into the lineup after sitting out a four-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy but had three catches for 71 yards and had a 35-yard scoring play against Cincinnati.
--RB Kevin Jones has gotten more practice time this week as he recovers from the hyperextended right elbow he suffered two weeks ago against Green Bay. Jones, who gained 1,133 yards last year as a rookie, has experienced a frustrating second season. He has gained only 586 yards and is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry, getting limited playing time because of injuries and coaches' decisions.
--LB Donte' Curry was added to the Lions' injury report Thursday with a quadriceps injury that kept him out of the team portion of practice. With three of the Lions' top four LBs on injured reserve, Curry is likely to start against New Orleans if he is able to play. He was listed as questionable on the injury report.
--LB Nate Wayne, a mid-season addition to the Lions' defense, missed the team portion of the Thursday's practice because of an ankle injury. With three of the team's top four LBs on injured reserve, the Lions are relying on free agent additions including Wayne to get them through the final games of the season. Wayne was listed as questionable.
--C LeCharles Bentley was able to practice on Thursday, but remains questionable for Saturday's game with the Detroit Lions because of an elbow injury.
--LT Wayne Gandy returned to work on Thursday even though he's questionable for Saturday's game with a contusion to his left calf.
--RG Jermane Mayberry practiced for the second straight day on Thursday, but is still questionable for the game with the Lions because of an injured elbow.
--LG Kendyl Jacox is listed as questionable, but he hopes to play on Saturday after missing last week's game with the Carolina Panthers because of a knee injury.
--SLB Sedrick Hodge, who has a sprained left ankle, missed a portion of team drills Thursday and is questionable for Saturday's game.
--WR Az-Zahir Hakim is questionable for Saturday's game because of a hip injury, but he's been able to practice this week.
--RDE Darren Howard has missed the last two games with a knee injury and will not play in the final two games of the season.
--TE Shad Meier was inactive last week because of a knee problem and will be questionable again Saturday even though he's not listed on the injury report.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
After a season of ups and downs - and more disappointments than victory celebrations - Lions quarterback Joey Harrington will get at least one more chance to go out in style.
Harrington, who started the first five games of the season, lost the job to Jeff Garcia, returned to start four more games after Garcia was re-injured and sat out most of the next three games, will get the start Saturday against New Orleans.
Throughout it all, the four-year veteran has managed to stay on an even keel, keep his poise and prepare himself for whatever his coaches had in mind.
"I've learned a lot about my own personal strength," Harrington said Thursday. "I've learned a good lesson in keeping your head, never getting too high and never getting too low.
"There were plenty of times this season I could have said, 'That's it, I'm packing it in.' There were plenty of times this season when I could have said, 'It's wonderful.'
"Inevitably, it's swung both directions and so now I find myself at the end of the season starting again and I'm prepared because I've kept myself focused and level-headed all year."
The New Orleans game will mark Harrington's first start with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson calling the plays. Olson was given that responsibility when Steve Mariucci was fired and Dick Jauron was appointed interim coach nearly a month ago, but Garcia started the first three games under Jauron.
Harrington had two of his better games of 2004 when Olson was calling plays late last season and there is speculation that Olson's play-calling is more in tune with Harrington's skills.
"There's a bond a quarterback and a quarterback coach have," Harrington said. "To compare last year's team with this year's team isn't really fair. I don't know how to do it (but) I trust Ollie. I'll follow him wherever he goes and I'll do whatever he tells me to do on the field."
It came as no surprise Wednesday when only one Saints player, center LeCharles Bentley, was chosen for the NFC team that will participate in the Pro Bowl on Feb. 12.
That's indicative of a 3-11 team, Bentley said, after extending the Saints' streak of having at least one Pro Bowl selection to 25 consecutive years.
"There are other guys on the team that are deserving, so I think our record kind of hampered those guys," said Bentley, who was chosen to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his four-year career. "The fan voting, there were a lot of factors that go into it, but there's still guys on the team that are very, very deserving.
"I wish our record were better and we could do things like the playoffs and Super Bowl-type things, things more team-oriented," he added. "It's more personal than anything."
Punter Mitch Berger, who played in last year's all-star contest, was a third alternate this time around. No other Saints received mention after a trying season.
The last time New Orleans did not have a Pro Bowl selection was 1980, when the team finished a franchise-worst 1-15. Since then, the Saints have had just one selection on six previous occasions.
Running back George Rogers went in 1981 and '82, while linebacker Rickey Jackson was the pick in 1983. Tackle William Roaf was the lone selection in 1996, '97 and '99.
Bentley, who will be a free agent after this season, has developed into one of the Saints' more dependable players.
"I think he's done a good job," coach Jim Haslett said. "Everybody on the team could have played better, including him, but I think for the most part, he's done a good job."