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Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez make their picks for Sunday’s Lions-Saints game. Recorded Friday, Oct. 13, 2017.
Detroit Free Press staff

Ahead of Sunday’s game between the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints, Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett looks at the biggest factor for each team to win, and highlights the game’s key matchup. 

The Lions will win if … Ameer Abdullah runs for at least 80 yards. Abdullah had a career-high 94 yards rushing two weeks ago in Minnesota, then crashed back down to earth with 34 yards from scrimmage Sunday against Carolina. Theo Riddick could see an uptick in playing time as the Saints have struggled to cover running backs in the passing game, but a good day from Abdullah is a must as Matthew Stafford continues to deal with a right ankle injury. The better Abdullah runs it, the less pressure Stafford will face in the pocket. The Saints have given up at least 119 yards on the ground in three of the four games they’ve played this year, so the Lions could be in for a big day rushing.

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The Saints will win if … They play turnover-free football. The Saints are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t turned the ball over this year, and they’ll need that streak to continue against one of the most opportunistic defenses in the NFL. Drew Brees has historically taken good care of the ball, but the Lions did intercept three of his passes (and force a fumble they didn’t recover) in their win last year. If the Lions get back to their turnover-causing ways, they’re a tough team to beat.

Matchup to watch: Lions WR Golden Tate vs. Saints S Kenny Vaccaro

The Saints typically use three safeties in their nickel package, which means Vaccaro will match up with Tate when the Lions deploy him as their slot receiver. Tate is on pace for his fourth straight 90-catch season, and though he has had a couple of relatively quiet games lately, he can be deadly in the open field. Vaccaro intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass in 2014, when he was playing as a deep safety and corralled a tipped ball. He’s not the best cover man Tate will face all season, but he’s a fine player.

Contact Dave Birkett: dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!