This week's guest for "Know Your Enemy" is Darren Page. While known for being the lead scout at Detroit Lions Draft (where I'm the editor), he's an avowed Vikings fan with a great knowledge of the team.
Darren also contributes to Draft Mecca, and he's one of the most objective football observers around. You can follow him on Twitter @DarrenPage15.
How much impact do you think Minnesota will get from this being the final game in the Metrodome?
I foresee a different atmosphere in the stadium, one with less anxiety around the quarterback and coaching situation, and more of one with a "final ride" mentality for the fans against a divisional foe. The atmosphere in the dome is likely to be far more hostile than a road team would expect in most Week 17 games with little to play for.
As far as the Vikings go, Leslie Frazier-coached teams have shown no lack of effort or passion in virtually meaningless games. They took the upper hand and controlled the game against the Eagles two weeks ago at home. They got blown out in Cincinnati, but the road woes of this team are nothing new.
They will absolutely be out to beat the Lions in the final week—and as badly as they possibly can.
Darren is absolutely right that the Vikings have not let up despite a disappointing season, especially at home. It's a division game and could be payback for the Lions' season-opening win that began the downward spiral for the Vikings.
Then there are the fans. It's hard to say how they'll react to the end of the Metrodome era, but it's safe to say the crowd will be raucous.
What is one thing the Vikings do well that doesn't get enough attention?
The Vikings are probably the only team in the league that throws the football more effectively than anticipated. Despite the revolving door at quarterback early in the season, the passing game has started to take shape with Matt Cassel under center.
The corps of wide receivers is a combination of explosive, reliable and technically skilled. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has started to find a groove for the use of Cordarrelle Patterson, who has been the primary playmaker in the second half of the season.
Even though Greg Jennings will get the "overpaid and unproductive" distinction, he has had a phenomenal season. Jennings' ability to get open on a consistent basis is one that Christian Ponder and Cassel have had a tough time taking advantage of.
The group is rounded out by Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright, who have both made big plays when called upon. No defense is going to play two-deep on a regular basis against Adrian Peterson. That only helps the passing game, especially when the Vikings attack over the top.
What Darren brings up about the passing game scares me more heading into next season than it does in this game. Give that team a legitimate franchise quarterback, and the Vikings will have a lot of pieces in place for an explosive offense.
However, I think the defensive ends get overlooked. Everyone knows about Jared Allen, and he's still very effective, but both Everson Griffen and Brian Robison have proven to be competent pass-rushers. They will be a load for the strong Detroit offensive line.
With Calvin Johnson iffy, what scares you the most about facing Detroit?
A healthy Reggie Bush would have topped this list, especially considering what he did to the Vikings in Week 1.
Instead, it's Detroit's defensive front four. The Lions' ability to control the point of attack kept Minnesota from establishing the running game in their first matchup. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah are a handful for any offensive line in the league, especially for one that has been as inconsistent as Minnesota's.
If Detroit is able to contain a hobbled Adrian Peterson early, they will be able to pin their ears back in ways the Vikings aren't used to seeing. After Matt Cassel was hauled down four times by the rush in Cincinnati, who is to say it won't be more this week?
The Lions fan in me really hopes Darren is right about the defensive front four, but they've been inconsistent and not nearly as productive as expected.
The key for Detroit is the combo of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Being able to attack the defense with contrasting styles and versatility can really strain defenses. Even if Matthew Stafford is having another off day, the running back duo can carry the offense for Detroit.
Who wins, and why?
Minnesota. With the disappointment of dropping a home game and crashing from playoff contention, the Lions may just go through the motions.
Leslie Frazier-coached teams, even at their lowest points, have never been the type to wave the white flag. The players seem to be rallying around Frazier, even lobbying ownership for his retention. Minnesota has won its last three home games, and it seems likely that it will become four.
This is a very tough game to predict. The motivations of both teams are questionable, with little to play for but personal pride and statistics.
Nothing would surprise me from Detroit in this game. They could come out fired up, determined to end the season with a non-losing record and a 5-1 NFC North mark. They could also come out flat for a seemingly lame-duck coaching staff and get steamrolled.
For that reason, the Vikings are my pick as well. I think they close out the Metrodome in victorious fashion, while the Jim Schwartz Lions self-destruct one last time.
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