Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings in Week 3: The Owen II Bowl Preview
The Lions had two winnable games that went into the loss column. When you think about it, the Lions are two plays removed from being 2-0.
Any reasonable adult could be led to the conclusion that if your defense can hold a team to 19 points, your weapon laden offense should be able to win.
Not when you lose your starting QB. Not when the offensive play calling goes into a Jim Colletto shell. Not when you can manage only 168 net yards (24 rushing).
The home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) was a contrast. Here, the offense scored 32 points, and piled up yards almost at will.
Again, any rational, sober individual could make the reasonable assumption that 32 points is enough to win. Not against Michael Vick (who was sacked six times), DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy ran roughshod through the porous Lions defensive secondary for 35 points.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is not happy with all of the missed assignments by the back seven, and rightly so. Chicago and Philadelphia proved that the Lions secondary is vulnerable to giving up big plays often.
The Lions have the 30th ranked defense. It stands to reason that if the defense makes plays, they will come from the defensive front four. DE Kyle Vanden Bosch leads the league in tackles (12), and Turk McBride, Ndamakong Suh, Corey Williams, and Sammie Hill are making great contributions as well.
Which brings us to Week 3, and another suddenly vulnerable team, the Vikings.
The Vikings are, like the Lions, pretty banged up. No Sidney Rice, and Percey Harvin will be a game time decision with a hip sprain. The Lions will be without the services of QB Matt Stafford (shoulder), S Aaron Berry (IR), WR Nate Burleson (ankle), DE Cliff Avril (knee), and MLB DeAndre Levy (groin) will be game day decisions.
Vikings Offense vs. Lions Defense
Vikings QB Brett (“I don’t need no stinkin trainin camp.”) Favre is off to his worst start ever. The 29th ranked Favre has a 56.1 QB rating.
Favre has thrown four interceptions, and has been sacked four times.
The Lions lead the league with 10 sacks. Going up against a Vikings offensive line where the right side has been atrocious should have Lions DE Turk McBride, and DT Ndamakong Suh drooling at the opportunity to knock Favre into next week.
Favre is so out of sync with his receivers that he’s rapidly losing his team, and the Vikings fans. In Viking land, the faithful are looking at Detroit as the cure for what ails them.
The Vikings fans are calling for the benching of WR Bernard Berrian, and are calling for a trade for San Diego’s holdout WR Vincent Jackson. Jackson will not provide immediate relief since he must serve a four game league suspension.
Adrian Peterson is the real concern for the Lions. The NFL’s third ranked rusher is averaging 116 yards per game, and has been a reliable receiver. Oddly, Peterson has yet to put the rock on the ground.
If the Lions defense can get to Favre early and often, they will have a very good chance to upset the Vikings, and end a 21 game road losing streak. The Lions back seven must play better than what we have witnessed in the first two games.
Lions Offense vs. Vikings Defense
The Lions will be led by QB Sean Hill (68.1 passer rating). Hill has been sacked three times, and has thrown three interceptions. Hill has had some problems with accuracy, and his decision making has come under suspicion.
Hill has experience enough to get the offense rolling if the offensive line can keep him upright. Hill must be poised for the Lions to succeed.
Expect to see more blitz packages from the excellent Vikings line backing corps. Chad Greenway posted 13 tackles and seven assists against a Miami offense that is much better than the Lions 20th ranked offense.
The Vikings front four have had a relatively quiet season until now.
If the Lions can keep the Vikings rush at bay, they can exploit a secondary that looks very Lion like indeed. Draws and screens to Jahvid Best should be productive.
Last week, the Lions threw 11 passes to Calvin Johnson, who made four catches (including a TD and a two point conversion). The Lions must get “Big Johnson” more involved.
Nate Burleson’s ankle injury on the first play of last week's game effectively trashed the offensive game plan. The Lions were forced to go with two TE sets for the remainder of the game. If Burleson can return to action, the Lions will have greater flexibility in the play calling.
Jahvid Best must excel as a rusher and a receiver. He alone can neutralize the pass rush and force the Vikings to bring an eighth man into the box.
If the Lions offensive line can play as well as they have during the first two games, I would expect the Lions to find some success.
The Vikings have been disenchanted with Bernard Berrian as a return specialist. He’s muffed two punts, and put the Vikings in poor field position as a result.
Percey Harvin is the kick return specialist. This may change this Sunday in order to limit the contact to his strained hip.
Stephan Logan has done a solid, if not spectacular job of fielding punts and kicks for the Lions.
The Vikings have been installed as a 10-½ point favorite. The Lions have covered the spread in both games that they have played, and will cover here.
The Lions have a history of playing the Vikings close on the road.
The Vikings have a bye week in Week 4, but then have the Jets on the road, Cowboys, and Packers on the road. The Vikings are marking the Lions down as a certain win. Will the Vikings suffer a letdown? Will they look ahead?
This will be another close game shoot out for the Lions. Will the defense keep the Lions in the game? I believe that they will. Favre will be harassed relentlessly, and if they can limit the effectiveness of RB Adrian Peterson the defense will give the offense a chance to steal this game.
The offense must exploit a weak Vikings secondary, run the ball effectively, and avoid turnovers. The tight ends will play a prominent role in keeping the Viking line backers under control, and under pressure.
We Lions fans are looking at another winnable game. Let’s see who comes away with the OWEN III record.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.
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