The Detroit Lions (4-4) travel to Minnesota (5-2) for their third division game and third division road game of the season. The Lions are in the thick of the playoff and NFC North race despite a 20-13 loss to the Texans (5-3) in Week 8. The Vikings have dropped two in a row with terrible offensive performances since starting the season 5-0. The game will be 1 PM on FOX at US Bank Stadium. Detroit must strike while the Vikings are weak to give Detroit a shot at the NFC North crown.
Lions Passing Offense
Matt Stafford had a decent game at Houston (89 rating) and sits 4th in the league at a 103.4 rating. However, the Lions WRs weapons were blanketed by good Houston CBs and the Lions offense struggled with 13 points, a missed field goal, a turnover on downs in Houston territory and five punts in Week 8.
Detroit must play better offensively and will face another very good defense in the Minnesota Vikings. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Captain Munnerlyn could repeat the Texan’s performance and blanket Jones, Tate and Boldin again. If so, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron will need to step up like they did in Week 8 in their returns.
However, Jones (656 yards and 4 TDs) and Tate (434 yards and 1 TD) need to produce more or the offense falls flat. Anquan Boldin must return to catching clutch first downs and blocking much better than he did in Week 8.
Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the league and Andrew Sendejo is a solid player as well at strong safety. It will be tough for the Lions to have passing success unless their weapons step up on the road. The Vikings allow only a 68.1 QB rating (2nd in league). The Lions must bring their best passing performance of the season to beat the Vikings secondary.
The Vikings have a very good pass rush with 20 sacks in 7 games and consistent pressure. Detroit protection has been pretty strong with consistent protection of Stafford, especially in the last five games. The Lions will have their hands full with Everson Griffen (5 sacks), Danielle Hunter (4 sacks), Brian Robison (4 sacks) and Linval Joseph (3 sacks). Taylor Decker has been good even a rookie. Riley Reiff has been up and down and Warford has been solid. Travis Swanson has been a top 5 center this season as well. Graham Glasgow has been solid but had rookie struggles in Week 8. The Lions offensive line will face their toughest challenge of the year. We will see if the protection holds up. If it doesn’t, it could be a long game for Stafford like the two games against Minnesota last season.
Lions Run Game
Theo Riddick returned after missing two games and had a good YPC. The Lions didn’t run very much against Houston and might have to run more this week so Stafford doesn’t get killed. Detroit averages 3.9 YPC on the season. Zach Zenner has struggled and Dwayne Washington was inactive. Forsett wasn’t used with the return of Riddick. The Lions will need to be on point in run blocking so the Vikings can’t pin their ears back and rush the passer all the time. The Vikings allow 4.1 YPC and 4 TDs on the season. The Lions could have some success if they have a good plan and execution in run blocking.
Vikings Rush Attack
Adrian Peterson struggled and went on IR. Jerrick McKinnon only has 3.2 YPC and has been battling injuries as well. Matt Asiata notched 3.2 YPC on 62 carries and Ronnie Hillman did nothing in Week 8 since being added to the Vikings roster. Minnesota can’t run block well and don’t have backs to make things happen without run blocking. Also, the Vikings OC Norv Turner re-signed this week. Minnesota will have a new OC in Pat Shurmur calling the plays to fix their run game and pass protection.
The Lions have been up and down in run defense. They had a strong game until the 4th Quarter against the Texans. The Lions hope Haloti Ngata and DeAndre Levy return soon to help the run defense. Detroit should be able to stop the Vikings due to Minnesota’s offensive line problems. Alex Boone, Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco just haven’t been good on the interior. Backups Jeremiah Sirles and Jake Long have struggled at tackle.
Vikings Passing Attack
Sam Bradford has a 98.2 rating in 7 games with the Viking with 203 pass attempts with 66.5% 8 TDs and 1 interception. Bradford can have success when he has time. The problem is the Vikings give up a ton of pressure and 19 sacks in 7 games. Minnesota can’t protect Bradford and it hurts the passing game and ability to move the ball. Detroit is allowing a 113.7 rating but were able to have a good game against Osweiler (sans the 2nd Quarter). Detroit hopes Darius Slay can return for this divisional matchup. Bradford could have success against Johnson Bademosi and Nevin Lawson at CB.
The Lions pass rush has been better the last few weeks. Ziggy Ansah showed some signs of life after injury/return in Week 7 and Kerry Hyder is having a good year as a backup DE. Devin Taylor has really struggled despite one good game this year and Anthony Zettel is a rookie 6th round pick and plays like one. Armonty Bryant was suspended 3 games for a previous infraction with the Browns. Bryant has 3 sacks in 4 games and will be missed. Ansah and Taylor must step up. This is the week to do it facing back-ups in Long and Sirles at tackle.
If the Lions bring pressure, and they better, they can stop the Vikings offense and limit Bradford and his weapons’ production.
Stefon Diggs is having a nice year despite missing a few games. Diggs has 466 yards and 2 TDS at 13.3 YPC. Adam Thilen has been decent with 364 yards and 1 TD. Rudolph has 322 yards and 3 TDs. Patterson had 194 yard and 2 TDs in his 4th year with the Vikings after being a 1st round pick. Treadwell has battled injury and done nothing despite being a 1st round pick this year. The Vikings don’t have a number 1 WR and it hurts them in consistently moving the ball. We’ll see how different their offense will be with a new OC.
The Lions need a win but this a tough road game in the division. The Vikings have shown considerable weakness on offense but no weakness on defense. This will be a low scoring game. If Detroit’s WRs show up and Stafford gets decent protection, the Lions can pull off the win on the road. If the Vikings pass rush dominates, the Vikings will win a low scoring game. Detroit must continue to avoid turnovers as they have most of the year. If the Vikings get turnovers, it could be a long day for Detroit.
Detroit 17 Minnesota 14