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'MNF' Week 15: What to watch for in Lions-Saints

*Neither the Detroit Lions nor the New Orleans Saints have a shot at the playoffs. But sometimes when two mediocre products meet, it can be beautiful, like Christmas carols and snow. Here is what you should watch for in Monday night's tilt: *

  1. Could this be the last prime-time game of the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era in New Orleans? We have our doubts about the Saints moving on from either or both of their Super Bowl champions, but questions have swirled for much of the season about a possible franchise overhaul.

While the Saints have had a disappointing season, Brees remains one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, ranking second in the league in passing yards per game (316.2), third in completion percentage (67.8), sixth in passer rating (97.9) and tied for ninth in TD passes (25). Brees has experienced some swoons this season -- including back-to-back games with under 230 yards passing, Weeks 10 and 12. Monday night he faces a Lions defense that has allowed 315 yards per game passing in the past two weeks. Detroit corner Darius Slay has been underrated this season and could negate Brandin Cooks. Look for Brees to target Benjamin Watson often against a Lions defense that has struggled against tight ends this season.

  1. Despite being eliminated from the playoffs and with the likelihood of losing his job looming, Jim Caldwell insisted this week he's not going to showcase his young players the rest of the way. That's an asinine approach for a man on the chopping block. After failing to build on a playoff team and floundering in close games this season partly due to poor management (hello, Hail Mary), the only minute chance Caldwell has to keep the job in 2016 is show future management he can groom the young talent on the roster. We need to see more Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick in the backfield Monday night and less Joique Bell. Ditto for the enigma that is Eric Ebron. And young defenders like Kyle Van Noy should be allowed to sink or swim down the stretch. Sticking with the status quo to chase hallow wins is dunderheaded, isn't in the best interest of the franchise and would prove Caldwell needs to be relieved of his duties.
  1. The Saints' defense has been one of the worst in the history of the NFL this season, but it's not without bright spots. Cameron Jordan continues to be a beast -- Pro Football Focus ranks him as their top 4-3 defensive end. Rookie Stephone Anthony is a playmaker with exciting upside. Keep your eyes on Anthony during Monday's game, odds are he'll lead you to the ball. Corner Delvin Breaux has been an enticing player with a great backstory. Since Dennis Allen took over as coordinator, the defense has improved. In last week's win, they held Tampa Bay to under 300 net yards and the unit committed its fewest miscommunications and improper alignments for all season. If the Saints' defense improves down the stretch it could save jobs.
  1. We've been on the "Calvin Johnson hits 1,000 yards" watch for the past two weeks. After two dismal games in what has been a disappointing season, Megatron is 19 receiving yards shy of a sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season. While Johnson still forces coverage problems, he hasn't been the dominant force we've come to know. After Megatron earned just one catch last week, expect Jim Bob Cooter to ensure Johnson is heavily involved early, especially when matched up against penalty-machine Brandon Browner.
  1. Tim Hightower is one of the best stories of the past week that hasn't been talked about enough. The running back didn't play a down of NFL football for four years. FOUR. Then, in his first start since 2011, galloped for 85 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries last week. With Mark Ingram out for the season and C.J. Spiller being a shell of a player, Hightower will once again carry the load for the Saints' ground game. The between-the-tackles runner should make hay against a Lions defense allowing 115.9 yards per game on the ground.
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