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Lions at Vikings Week 2 Preview

The overreactions are complete and Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books. Detroit (0-1) turns their attention to a big division rival on the road in Week 2. The Lions travel to Minnesota for a road game against the 0-1 hyped Vikings at 1 PM (ET). This game is important for both teams because a 0-2 start would put either team in a decent sized hole to try and recover their season.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Lions Pass Rush against the Vikings Offensive Line

The Lions pressured Rivers on 17 of 42 drop backs in Week 1. Rivers was the 10th most pressured QB in Week 1 despite a quick release in the second half. Detroit had 1 hit and 12 hurries from their top three defensive tackles including 7 hurries from an effective Tyrunn Walker bull rush. Haloti Ngata and Walker will match up well against Brandon Fusco, backup center Joe Berger and Mike Harris.

Jason Jones had a good game with 1 hit and 4 hurries from the left end spot and will match up against rookie right tackle TJ Clemmings. The veteran Jones should win this battle. Ziggy Ansah had a sack and a QB hit in Week 1 and has abused Matt Kalil in past seasons.

The Lions have a big advantage against the Vikings offensive line. Luckily for Minnesota, Bridgewater is mobile. The Vikings allowed 38.5% pressure on Bridgewater (12th most) in Week 1 which was very close to the amount of pressure Rivers received. Bridgewater was sacked 5 times in Week 1 by the 49ers and 12 times in two games by the Lions last season. Detroit should get good pressure on Minnesota in Week 2. Detroit blitzed Rivers 8 times in Week 1 and may come after Bridgewater more if needed. However, the front four pass rush should be enough for Detroit in this game.

Advantage: Detroit

Lions Coverage against Vikings Weapons

The Lions second corner Rashean Mathis, strong safety James Ihedigbo and MLB Stephen Tulloch had terrible coverage games against San Diego allowing big days for Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and LaDarius Green. The Lions allowed 404 yards and 2 TDs. The Lions did force two interceptions of Rivers and have had success picking off Bridgewater last season.

Bridgewater struggled in Week 1 against San Francisco despite a 71% completion percentage. Bridgewater only led the Vikings to 3 points and missed field goal on the road with one interception.

The Lions coverage in Week 2 depends on Stephen Tulloch and Rashean Mathis rebounding from a dismal performance. More importantly, Slay and Levy must get healthy and play. Slay hurt his ankle late in game 1 and Levy missed Week 1 with a hip injury. The Lions NEED both of those players healthy and dominate.

Mike Wallace is a good deep threat coming off a 63 yard debut for Minnesota. Charles Johnson is a solid possession receiver with good chemistry with Bridgewater. Mathis covering Johnson on short and intermediate routes and the Lions CBs/safeties limiting big plays from Mike Wallace will be a key to the game. Glover Quin playing deep at free safety will help curb the impact of Wallace.

Kyle Rudolph is the biggest threat to Detroit and the Lions safeties and LBS must do a better job in coverage unlike against LaDarius Green in Week 1 (74 yards and a TD). If Bridgewater hits some big gainers to Rudolph down the seam, it will open up the run game for Adrian Peterson. Slot WR Jarius Wright against nickel back Josh Wilson is an even matchup in the slot.

Advantage: Even

Vikings Run Game against Detroit Run Defense

Detroit had success stopping the run in Week 1 allowing only 3.2 YPC (which matched their YPC in 2014). However, the Chargers have been notoriously bad at rushing the ball. The Vikings actually had 4.2 YPC in Week 1 against the 49ers but this production can be attributed to backup RB Jerrick McKinnon and the scrambling of Teddy Bridgewater. Star RB Adrian Peterson had only 3.1 YPC on 10 carries. Peterson must shake off the rust for the Vikings offense to have success.

The Vikings run blocking was average with Mike Harris, Matt Kalil and TJ Clemmings. Brandon Fusco and backup center Joe Berge struggled in run blocking against the 49ers. The Vikings run blocking must improve to help a rusty Peterson.

Detroit should have the advantage until the Vikings prove they can run block and Peterson shakes off the rust.

Advantage: Detroit

Lions Pass Protection against Vikings Pressure

Matt Stafford started strong against the Chargers and Detroit built a 21-3 lead (14 offensive points). The Lions allowed too much pressure in the second half helping cause two interceptions of Stafford and an injury to Stafford’s elbow on his throwing arm. Stafford was pressured 38.7% of this drop backs in Week 1.

The bad news for Detroit is the Vikings pressured Colin Kaepernick on 41.9% of his drop backs in Week 1. The Vikings have a very good pass rush with Everson Griffen (1 hit and 2 hurries), Shariff Floyd (top 5 DT in 2014), Brian Robison (6 hurries) and backup DT Tom Johnson (5 hurries) leading the charge.

The Lions need to get their right guard (Warford) and right tackle healthy (Waddle) healthy. Manny Ramirez played well at right guard but rookie LG Laken Tomlinson struggled in Week 1. Backup right tackle Cornelius Lucas failed replacing Waddle. Detroit needs their starters to face the firepower of Floyd, Joseph, Tom Johnson and Left End Brian Robison. Starting center Travis Swanson allowed only 2 hurries in Week 1 but had a -1.8 pass blocking grade. Swanson must play better against the Vikings strong and deep DTs.

Riley Reiff against Everson Griffen will be a great matchup. Reiff won the matchup in 2014 allowing only 1 hit and 4 hurries in 2 games. Reiff will need to repeat this performance in Week 2 after allowing a sack and QB hit in Week 1.

Anthony Barr can blitz well from the SAM spot. Barr blitzed 9 times in Week 1 and Detroit’s Tight ends, tackles and RBs better account for him in pass protection.

Advantage: Minnesota

Lions Weapons against Vikings Coverage

The Lions have plenty of healthy weapons for Stafford. Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate did not have their typical good games in Week 1. Johnson and Tate must be dominant in Week 2. Terrence Newman struggled in Week 1 so this is good news for Golden Tate. Calvin Johnson has a tough matchup with Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes was average in game 1 and poor against Detroit in game 2 last year. Calvin should win this matchup but Stafford must target Calvin more than five times.

Eric Ebron had a nice TD in Week 1 down the seam but didn’t do much else until garbage time. Ebron must take advantage of Gerald Hodges (-3.1 coverage), Chad Greenway and Robert Blanton/Andrew Sandejo in coverage. Stud free safety Harrison Smith will match up well against Ebron, however.

Captain Munerlyn against Lance Moore should be a tight battle in the slot. If Ebron and Moore step up, Lions offense can be more explosive than the 21 offensive points scored on the road this season.

Advantage: Lions

Lions Run Game against Vikings Run Defense

Ameer Abdullah was a playmaker Week 1. He is a dangerous, runner, receiver and returner. The Vikings will have their hands full with Abdullah. Bell must shake the rust off similar to Peterson after missing all of training camp with an injury. Bell ran hard but didn’t get the production in Week 1.

The good news for Detroit is the Vikings allowed a league worst 4.6 YPC in Week 1 and struggled in 2014 in run defense. Detroit had 4.3 YPC in Week 1 due to Abdullah having a great 7 carries including a 24 yard TD run. The Lions should be able to run the ball well in this game. The Lions having run success will be the most important factor of this game. Detroit running the ball well moves the chains and limits the damage from the Vikings pass rush.

Advantage: Lions

Quarterbacks

Stafford had an up and down performance in Week 1 with 63% completion and 8.2 YPA but had two big turnovers. Pressure can be attributed to his struggles as Stafford went 3/11 under pressure causing 2 interceptions. Stafford has the tools and experience in this system to pick apart the Vikings. However, he’ll need protection to make this happen.

Bridgewater struggled to move the ball for the Vikings despite 71% completion and was pressured a high amount. How each QB deals with pressure in Week 2; will be a big deciding factor in this game. The team that runs the ball better will make life easier for their QB this week.

Advantage: Lions

Special Teams

I bring up Special teams because the Lions lost a game to the Vikings in 2012 due to special teams returns. Abdullah on kickoffs and Golden Tate on punts provided a shot to the arm for Detroit’s return game. Cordarelle Patterson is a dangerous kickoff returner for the Vikings and Sherels on occasion has a big punt return on Detroit. Neither team can let specials teams put them in a hole.

Prater has been very accurate for Detroit despite a shaky 2 FG miss outing at Minnesota last year. Blair Walsh has been shaky for the Vikings and missed field goal in Week 1.

Advantage: Lions

Prediction

This is a huge divisional game. Neither team can afford to start 0-2. The Vikings are at home but were swept by the Lions last season. Detroit has more talent than Minnesota but must prove it on the field on the road yet again this season. Detroit’s run game and pass rush aid them to an ugly victory in this game. The Lions coverage woes are fixed this week (pending Levy and Slay health) and force two Bridgewater turnovers.

Lions 24 Vikings 17