The Minnesota Vikings are playing a dangerous team in the Detroit Lions. The Lions are dangerous because they have lost their last 18 games and are valiantly trying not to be known as the franchise with the longest losing streak in NFL history.
Last year the Lions played the Vikings extremely well. The Lions staff in reviewing film this week will be able to motivate the team to play hard against Minnesota. The Lions very easily could have beaten the Vikings twice last year.
In Week six last year, the Vikings squeezed by with a 12-10 win. Minnesota took advantage of a questionable pass interference call just before the two-minute warning to kick a late game winning field goal.
The second game was also a nail bitter. At the 5:53 mark, former Viking Daunte Culpepper hit Calvin Johnson on a 13-yard pass to the Vikings eight yard line. Coach Childress challenged the play resulting in the play getting reversed. The Lions then had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown that would have given them the lead.
The Vikings, guarding a 17-16 lead at the 5:44 mark went on a 10 play drive culminating in a 50-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell. The drive left the Lions with only 22 seconds to drive the entire length of the field.
The drive last season was memorable because the Vikings were somehow able to survive fumbling the ball twice yet avoid turning the ball over to the Lions.
This week’s game against the Detroit Lions will say a lot about how serious we should take the Vikings Super Bowl aspirations. If the 2009 Vikings come out flat against the Lions, questions will be raised about whether GM Rick Spielman has assembled a team that can get to Miami.
Hopefully, this week all experiments with an on-side kick to start the game are over. The Lions, similar to the Cleveland Browns, are a weak team that will have difficulty being able to sustain a long drive. The risk of giving up a cheap field goal to the Lions on a short field and allowing their fans to get going far outweighs trying an on-side kick.
Assuming the Vikings don’t outsmart themselves with too many trick plays, I expect that the Vikings will beat the Lions in the same way they beat the Browns.
The Lions do not have a strong run game. The Lions rushed the ball 20 times against the New Orleans Saints for a measly 33 yards. Kevin Smith, the Lions leading rusher, had only 20 yards on 15 carries. Ouch! Expect Smith to run into additional resistance as the Vikings effectively disguise their run defense to confuse Rookie Matt Stafford.
While most fans were fixated, and rightly so, on the performance of Adrian Peterson, All-Pro Antoine Winfield played a great game that was overshadowed. Winfield smothered any attempts to throw on his side of the field.
When the Browns did throw the ball his way, Winfield made them pay the old fashioned way. One Brown who found out how hard Winfield tackles is Running Back James Davis. Davis, who earlier in the week survived a car accident unscathed, left the game with a shoulder injury after smashing into Winfield.
Earlier this year, I predicted that Jared Allen could have a break-out season for sacks if he got off to a good start against the Browns and Lions. After week one it looks like I should have identified Ray Edwards for having a big year after he put Quinn into the turf twice. Expect Allen to get a lot of attention from the Lions offensive line and for Edwards to be in Stafford’s face for most of the day.
Unfortunately, the defensive line may not get more than one or two sacks this week. Stafford did a good job getting the ball away quickly and avoiding the rush of the Saints last week. Stafford was sacked only once; he did however throw three interceptions. Cedric Griffin must be ready to pick off any errant throws as the defensive line of the Vikings will keep up the pressure this week.
While Adrian Peterson is well on his way to 2,000 yards with 180 yards last week, Vikings fans should temper their expectations for this week and be happy with a solid 100 yard effort from Peterson.
Last year, Peterson ran for more than 150 yards in a game on three occasions. The following week after running for more than 150 yards, Peterson failed to rush for 100 yards.
Detroit also did a good job not allowing Peterson to run wild. Peterson gained 111 yards on 25 carries in his first game and 105 yards in 22 carries in his second game. Peterson will likely post similar numbers unless he breaks a long 50-plus yard run.
Expect the Lions to say again to the Vikings offense in 2009 that if you are going to beat us, you are going to have to do it by passing the ball. The Vikings should have no problem accepting the challenge.
The intriguing question this week is not whether Brett Favre throws for 3, 4 or 5 touchdowns. The intriguing question is whether Coach Childress will continue to allow Favre to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
In a post game interview, Coach Childress acknowledged that Favre called a couple of audibles during the game and that it was likely that Favre’s action resulted in a better outcome for the Vikings. The look on Coach Childress’ face at the post game conference however suggested that he was not completely comfortable with the idea of his veteran quarterback changing plays.
Hopefully, I misread Coach Childress. If not, hopefully Coach Childress will get comfortable with Favre changing plays. Favre is making $12 million dollars a year and at that salary the Vikings have to be paying him for using his knowledge of the game.
Coach Childress can always take comfort in knowing that it could be worse. His long snapper could be calling for a fake punt on 3rd and 11 from his 26-yard line in the fourth quarter. Chicago Bears Coach Lovie Smith must still be having nightmares.
I expect that the Vikings long snapper will not call any fake punts on his own and that the Vikings will beat the Lions handily to put the NFC on notice that the Vikings intend to be playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl.