GAME PLAN: The Detroit Lions must support quarterback Matthew Stafford in his NFL debut and keep their suspect defense off the field. That means they need to establish the run. If they can run the ball, they can control the clock and keep Drew Brees and company at bay. They can also use play-action to give Stafford a better chance and screens to keep the Saints' rush from teeing off. If the Lions fall behind badly, Stafford is going to have to air it out.
He is capable of big plays, but he is also capable of big mistakes.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Lions QB Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft making his first pro start, vs. Saints defenders, one of whom called Stafford "fresh meat" -- The Saints don't seem scared of the rookie, but the rookie doesn't seem scared of them, either. The Lions think Stafford can handle all the blitzing the Saints are likely to throw at him. But no one knows what will happen until Stafford is out there.
Lions LB Julian Peterson, a five-time Pro Bowler who gives the defense a pass-rushing presence, vs. Saints QB Drew Brees, who gets rid of the ball quickly, takes few sacks and throws for a ton of yards --Peterson has been facing Brees since college and has never beaten him. He said the Lions didn't show much of their scheme in the exhibition season and need to make Brees think, giving the pass rush time to at least disrupt Brees' rhythm.
INJURY IMPACT: The Lions' only injury issues are kicker Jason Hanson (knee) and quarterback Drew Stanton (knee). Hanson is expected to handle field goals, but kickoffs are a question mark. Stanton is out, but he would have been the third quarterback, anyway.