W2W4: Saints at Lions

Junior Galette insisted that the New Orleans Saints (2-3) are on the brink of a breakthrough.

Their defense played some of its best football in a comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5. Then they got a much-needed bye in Week 6 to recharge (and they're 5-0 coming off the bye week since 2009).

"Guys are really eager to get out there. We haven't practiced like [we did this week] in a while. You can feel it, too. You can feel just the aura around everybody like, 'We're about to turn this thing around,'" said Galette, who compared it to the feeling around the team in 2011, when the Saints started 5-3 before rattling off nine straight victories.

The biggest problem, however, is that the Saints' schedule might not cooperate.

That breakthrough is going to have to come against a 4-2 Detroit Lions team that features the NFL's hottest defense. And it's going to have to come on the road, where the Saints are 0-3 this year and 2-9 over their last 11 games, including the playoffs.

Here's What 2 Watch 4:

Mega-questionables: The biggest question is whether mega-stars Jimmy Graham and Calvin Johnson will play through injuries. The Saints' Graham practiced on a limited basis this week with a shoulder injury, which means it's entirely possible he could play -- even if it's in a limited red-zone package of plays. Meanwhile, the Lions' "Megatron" didn't practice all week. He's still listed as questionable, and he's fought through his lingering ankle injury before. So he can't be ruled out either.

If they're out or limited, no one individual player can fill the void. The Saints would likely count even more on receivers Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills -- though tight ends Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill could see a slight uptick in production.

The Saints have leaned heavily on their run and short passing games this year while the downfield passing game has been a non-factor. It's hard to imagine a major turnaround this week, since the Lions' defense leads the NFL in sacks and has allowed the league's lowest touchdown rate to receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But the Saints need to be more balanced, especially if Graham is out of the mix.

Sacking Stafford: Another element that has surprisingly gone missing from the Saints' repertoire this year is the sack total. Galette has two, Pro Bowl end Cameron Jordan has just one, and end Akiem Hicks has none. That's the one area of the Saints' defense that seems to be the most likely to turn around, based on the talent they displayed last year -- and it must.

They'll have an opportunity against a Lions offensive line that has proven vulnerable this year. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has been sacked 21 times. He's been sacked on 8.7 percent of his dropbacks, which ranks 32nd in the NFL per ESPN Stats & Info.

Secondary concern? The Saints' secondary has struggled for much of this season, and now it could be spread even thinner because of injuries.

Top cornerback Keenan Lewis is listed as probable with a toe injury, but he was held out of team drills Wednesday and Thursday. Nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson is a bigger question mark after missing practice all week with a hamstring injury. That could mean the Saints need to use undrafted rookie cornerback Brian Dixon as their nickel back -- and possibly second-round pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste in dime packages.

So far, the Saints have shown more faith in Dixon. But that doesn't mean the Saints have given up on Jean-Baptiste's long-term potential. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan reminded this week that the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder is "a real raw guy, a piece of clay, but he has a lot of ability."