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Best NFL offense: Saints or Lions?

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It all comes down to this. The championship of PFW’s “In the Trenches” bracket pits the Detroit Lions against the New Orleans Saints to determine the best offense in the NFL. The fans decide who is crowned the champion, but here’s what the PFW staff had to say about the final matchup:

Associate editor Arthur Arkush:
“I have to go with the Saints, the team with the most accurate passer in the league, as well as two dynamite mismatch pieces, TE Jimmy Graham and RB Darren Sproles. I think the sky is the limit for the Motown connection of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, both of whom were unstoppable at times last season, but New Orleans, as a whole, has more weapons, better balance and far more experience as things stand today.”

Editor-in-chief Keith Schleiden:
“Assuming the Drew Brees contract saga doesn’t become an even bigger distraction in New Orleans than it already is, the Saints will continue to field the best offensive attack in the NFL. Even with Sean Payton out of the picture for 2012, Brees knows the offense cold and will command it with the same cool efficiency he’s shown during his six years with the team. Brees and the Saints topped Matthew Stafford and the Lions in nearly every statistical category a season ago. New Orleans ranked No. 1 in yardage and No. 2 in scoring compared to Detroit’s No. 5 and No. 4 rankings. The Saints ranked first in QB sack percentage compared to the Lions’ ranking of 10. Time of possession? The Saints ranked fifth compared to the Lions being ranked 18th. The Saints win this battle definitively.”

Associate editor Kevin Fishbain:
“Saints: New Orleans has multiple advantages in this. Jimmy Graham is arguably the best pass-catching tight end in the NFL, and I would certainly take Drew Brees over Matthew Stafford, who we’ve only seen produce at a high level for one full season. While the Lions have Calvin Johnson and the edge at receiver, the Saints have a loaded backfield with Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory — the Lions could barely field a backfield last season. The Saints, even though they lost Carl Nicks, also have the edge on the offensive line. This is a no-brainer.”

Senior producer Adam Anshell:
“I'm going with the Lions. I know the Saints were ridiculous in 2011. But looking ahead to 2012, how will the they be affected by the most tumultuous offseason a team has ever seen? I see them taking a step back. As for the Lions, last year at this time we were wondering if Matthew Stafford could stay healthy for a season. This year, I'm wondering if he can break Brees' record for passing yards. The arrow is going up for the Lions offense, and this may be the year they jump to the head of the pack.”

Producer Mark Schoeck:
“You don’t have to convince me of the promise of Matthew Stafford. Along with the toughest WR in the league to cover and a WR corps as deep as the Saints, I truly believe the Lions' passing offense will be Saints-caliber in 2012. But the Lions can’t win this matchup because the best offense in the NFL must be a balanced one. The deal-breaker in this argument is not Drew Brees. It’s not Jimmy Graham. It’s Darren Sproles. He’s the reason the Saints have the most complete — and best — offense in the NFL.”

Senior editor Mike Wilkening:
“The Lions have the Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection, the most lethal QB-WR pairing in the game. 'We’d look at each other and we knew we needed to go out there and take it over,' Stafford told me after the 2011 season. 'I'd give him chances on balls, and he was making sure he was getting open and making plays on it.' Stafford-to-Johnson puts the Lions in the discussion of premier offenses, but other attacks are slightly better, and I would include New Orleans in this group. The Saints don’t have any glaring offensive weaknesses. Their passing game is renowned, but that’s not their only strength. To wit: New Orleans had more rushing yards than all but five teams a season ago. Also of note: the Saints rolled for 167 yards on the ground in their wild-card round defeat of Detroit in January, outgaining the Lions 626-412. In that defeat, the Lions rushed but 10 times for 32 yards. Yes, passing is paramount in today’s game, but a running game never hurt, and the Saints’ edge here is material.”

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