If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season whether or not the Lions would win any of their first four games of the season, I would have pointed at this game and said that this was the game they would win. San Diego, Denver, and Seattle are all tough opponents. Now, having watched Detroit build a monster lead against the Chargers only to blow it in an epic collapse, I do not know what to think of this week’s game against the Vikings. Add to that the injuries that Detroit has and you tend to wonder what the offense and defense will look like in this crucial divisional game. Since it is too close for me to call, I will go to the breakdown and decide from there.
- Detroit Lions Offensive Line vs. Minnesota Vikings Defensive Line – Everson Griffen pretty much guaranteed a Vikings victory this week. Because of that, the defensive like will come out on fire against the Lions. The Detroit offensive line looked awful last week. While the run blocking looked better than in previous seasons, the pass blocking was atrocious. With Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle both probable, the blocking should be better. That said, until I see it on film, it is difficult to give this unit the edge. Edge Vikings
- Detroit Lions Tight Ends vs. Minnesota Vikings Linebackers – Minnesota has a nice linebacking group with Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway leading the way. Barr is a year more seasoned and will likely look better than he did last season. Eric Ebron was a disaster last season, but in week one, he is already Detroit’s leading receiver and he already has a touchdown catch. Tim Wright will be taking the place of the injured Brandon Pettigrew on passing downs and as speculated by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Laken Tomlinson will likely play on Pettrigrew’s blocking downs. Even though I think Ebron will do well again this week, I still think the Vikings linebackers will be more effective overall. Edge Vikings
- Detroit Lions Wide Receivers vs. Minnesota Vikings Secondary – Minnesota has an excellent secondary. They limited the 49ers to 165 passing yards, although much of that could be due to the porous run defense. Last season they shut down Detroit’s passing attack twice, keeping the Lions to under 200 yards passing. They will likely be able to do it again this year, although it is hard to bet against Calvin Johnson, especially after the team only targeted him 4 times last week and took a ton of flack over it. Expect him to be involved early and often. If Johnson gets going, Golden Tate will be open quite a bit. While I still do not expect over 300 yards passing this week, I still think the passing attack comes alive. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Running Backs vs. Minnesota Vikings Run Defense – The Vikings run defense last week was awful. They allowed 168 yards to Carlos Hyde and a 6.5 yards per carry average. Ameer Abdullah was incredible last week in the few times he touched the ball. He ran well on carries, caught the ball well on the screen plays, and returned kicks well. His slippery elusive style is working well for the Lions, and I expect he will touch the ball more this week than last. While Joique Bell is still the starter, I cannot help but think that Abdullah will get more touches than Bell as he works to return to form from being out all offseason. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Quarterbacks vs. Minnesota Vikings Pass Defense – Matthew Stafford was maddening last week. He started strong, faded off, then got hurt and threw two interceptions in the process. His arm is better, but he is still listed on the injury report which makes me wonder how good we will be. He still has Johnson, Tate, and Ebron is coming along nicely. Still though, Minnesota’s pass defense is the real deal. Edge None
- Detroit Lions Defensive Line vs. Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line – I have to be real careful here because quite frankly, I do not know who will be playing. I suspect Ngata will play, but Caraun Reid may not again. Both are questionable but Ngata made comments that his shoulder is fine despite being limited all week. Minnesota’s offensive line, with the exception of center Joe Berger, is a young group. They allowed 5 sacks last week, and Adrian Peterson only averaged 3.1 yards per carry. While the Lions run defense did slow down the Chargers, it did not feel like they did. It felt like chunk plays in the run game came easy to the Chargers. Peterson is known to take chunk plays to the end zone. I do think the Lions will get to the quarterback more this week than last, especially if the defensive line plays like it did in the first half of last week’s game. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Linebackers vs. Minnesota Vikings Tight Ends – The Detroit linebackers looked terrible. They could not cover anyone over the middle. Stephen Tulloch looked slow, and the team appeared to miss Levy’s presence on the field. Tulloch came out and said it was rust last week, and his past performances force us to give him the benefit of the doubt. Tahir Whitehead started last week but word is Travis Lewis will start this week. I still expect Whitehead to play quite a bit, especially with how well he played at middle linebacker last season. In the end though, Kyle Rudolph is the man to worry about and I expect him to do some damage this week. Edge Vikings
- Detroit Lions Secondary vs. Minnesota Vikings Wide Receivers – I refuse to give the Lions secondary any benefit of the doubt here considering how poorly they played all game last week. Rashean Mathis was terrible in coverage. James Ihedigbo was a liability on the field. While Glover Quin is still an excellent safety, snatching a pick six last week, he cannot play by himself back there. Darius Slay is going to play, but no one knows how his ankle will hold up. Mike Wallace was once a premier receiver and I think he still has something left in the tank. Edge Vikings
- Detroit Lions Run Defense vs. Minnesota Vikings Running Backs – This match up scares me. From a statistical standpoint, The Lions should win this here. They limited the Chargers last week. They dominated all last year. Peterson did not look very good last week. It all seems to line up in Detroit’s favor. But Peterson has a history of shredding the Lions and with him being out all last season, it was expected that he would need a game or two to shake the rust. Can he return to form this week or will the Lions run defense shut him down? Edge Vikings
- Detroit Lions Pass Defense vs. Minnesota Vikings Quarterbacks – While I do not like Detroit’s pass defense, I also think Teddy Bridgewater is still too young to be mistake free. Glover Quin will likely get a takeaway, and if Detroit gets pressure like they did in the first game these two played last year, Bridgewater will collapse. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Special Teams vs. Minnesota Vikings Special Teams – Cordarrelle Patterson has the ability to be electric on returns but so does Abdullah. Blair Walsh has looked bad all offseason and Matt Prater has looked good. You have to wonder if a missed field goal will play big into the outcome of this game, especially if both offenses struggle like I expect them to. Edge Lions
Lions 5 Vikings 5
This would be the week where the data is split even, making this a tougher call than it should be. My brain tells me that this game could go either way. Both teams have issues, but both teams also showed that they have a little something in them that could help them win. Based on what we saw from Minnesota on Monday night, and what we saw from Detroit on Sunday afternoon, I think Detroit has more positives in the early goings. Minnesota has shown that they collapse when they fall into a big defecit. Detroit, while terrible at holding a lead, has shown the ability to jump out to a monster lead at the beginning. This could be the week that Detroit holds on for the win and learns how to play with the lead.
Detroit 24 Minnesota 13