Thursday, September 3, 2015

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(photo taken by Lindsey Young)
(photo taken by Lindsey Young)

Mike Zimmer is in his first season as head coach, and he is not satisfied with the way it’s going. With the Vikings off to a 2-4 start, Zimmer is making it clear that some players need to step it up—on and off the field. From unnecessary penalties in a game, to showing up late to practice, to more confrontations with the law, there seems to be no end to the mistakes. And the Coach is fed up with it.

According to the Star Tribune, Zimmer used the word “undisciplined” multiple times to describe his squad following Sunday’s home loss to Detroit.

“Some of the things we’re doing are leads to undisciplined play,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got to change a lot of these things. I had to fine a lot more guys this week, for whatever reason, for being late to meetings. I’m not going to let them slide. I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to keep pounding my head. Like I told them, the fines are going to start going to the max now. I’m tired of it.”

Nobody expected this melodramatic start for Minnesota. With Adrian Peterson out of the picture and Matt Cassell suffering a season-ending foot injury in Game 3, the team has had to adapt. And Zimmer doesn’t seem to have unrealistic expectations; he just wants the players to show up 100 percent. “I can handle getting beat,” he said. “I can’t handle getting our butts whipped like that [against the Lions].”

Zimmer did not publicly target any specific players. Rather, he addressed blanket issues, one of the biggest being poor blocking and protection of the quarterback. En route to a 17-3 loss to Detroit, rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater seemed to be running for his life on every play, scrambling to simultaneously find open receivers and escape the defense. By the end of the fourth, Bridgewater had been sacked eight times. Eight. (In case you’re wondering, the NFL record for sacks in a game is 12). One of the largest problems on the offensive line this season has been Matt Kalil. Kalil delivered an outstanding rookie season, but something drastically changed after that. Now in his third year, the USC alum is frequently ranked by Pro Football Focus as the worst offensive player in the league.

Zimmer is a man that doesn’t hide how he feels. When Zimmer came to Minnesota, he carried a reputation of being a players’ coach, and he certainly lives up to that standard—in all of its facets.

When I visited the Vikings training camp for three days this summer, the first thing I noticed about Zimmer was his involvement with the players. In viewing games on television, it’s the same thing. He is not the type of coach to simply delegate to assistants or pass instructions down a line; he is fully present. He is there to coach. He is there to form relationships with his players. He is there to support them. But when things go poorly—as they are now—he is there to straighten them out.

“I want them to understand that it’s not okay to lose,” Zimmer said. “That’s what I want them to understand. I want them to understand that it’s not OK to lose, that we have to change the mentality and the mindset of this. I can remember telling the defense the same thing in Cincinnati a long, long time ago that we have to develop this mindset that it’s not okay to lose, it’s not business as usual. I’m not very accepting of these kinds of things.”

It takes more than a few months for a new coach to make a team his own, and it will be interesting to see what changes Zimmer will make to the roster. Already, he is threatening to reduce playing time. Fullback Jerome Felton says this type of move will certainly get the players’ attention. “[Game time is] what matters to players. That will get it solved real quick,” Felton expressed.

Veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn also responded to the discipline problem, saying that one aspect is an issue of accountability among teammates. Munnerlyn, who came to Minnesota this season largely to play under Zimmer, explained that it really shouldn’t be the coaches’ job to make sure players are following through. “Man, it’s your job […] We’ve got to get better.”



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Readers who have followed my work closely know that I have a particular soft spot for statistical analysis when it comes to football. Obviously, this needs to be tempered with film work and analysis, but where metrics can demonstrate a larger point or test a claim, I’m partial to it.

That reasonability doesn’t extend to these power rankings, which makes them about as sensible as any other set of power rankings.

In this case, it involves the use of statistical analysis that has served me well in the past in terms of predicting games, as well as some other statistics I’ve found useful to talk about. All of these statistics are adjusted for opponent, which is to say they take into account what the opponent has done, what the opponent’s opponents have done and so on until the iterations don’t change the data.

It’s also a useful jumping off point for analysis, because we can take a look at what individual parts of the game any team is excelling or struggling at in order to figure out how to attack or fix them. I’ll be using some statistics derived from research I’ve done in the past and will compare them to other power rankings throughout the internet-o-sphere.

The first set of rankings to look at is simply point-differential per game. There’s not much to explain here, so it’s simple enough. The rankings:

Point Differential
Rank Team
1 San Diego Chargers
2 Baltimore Ravens
3 Denver Broncos
4 Philadelphia Eagles
5 Seattle Seahawks
6 Dallas Cowboys
7 Green Bay Packers
8 Detroit Lions
9 New England Patriots
10 Indianapolis Colts
11 Kansas City Chiefs
12 Cincinnati Bengals
13 Arizona Cardinals
14 Houston Texans
15 Cleveland Browns
16 Buffalo Bills
17 Miami Dolphins
18 Chicago Bears
19 San Francisco 49ers
20 New York Giants
21 Carolina Panthers
22 New Orleans Saints
23 Pittsburgh Steelers
24 St. Louis Rams
25 Washington Redskins
26 Minnesota Vikings
27 Tennessee Titans
28 Atlanta Falcons
29 New York Jets
30 Oakland Raiders
31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
32 Jacksonville Jaguars

Raw rank order doesn’t change much as a result of strength-of-schedule adjustments. San Diego’s penalty due to schedule doesn’t move them at all, as they’ve been dominant enough against their competition to earn top billing regardless. The biggest benefactor is Seattle, whose schedule moves them up from tenth in the raw point differential calculations to fifth. Other than that, Buffalo benefits by moving from 19th to 16th.  The New York Giants lose the most ground because of the adjustments, from 17th to 20th, but not many other teams are affected.

The next set of rankings are related to point differential, but instead of looking at it per game, we look at it per second. Originally used to examine true run-pass ratios, “game scripts” allows us to look at who held a lead and for how long in individual games. It’s a good measure of dominance, and also does a very good job of reducing the impact of garbage time points, while still punishing teams who were forced to come back from behind—which is good if you’re trying to predict future success, as they aren’t sustainable (which the Bills should have known before handing Ryan Fitzpatrick to a $59 million contract after five consecutive close games, including several comebacks from behind).

Basically, if two teams win 35-0, the team that took care of business in the first quarter with four touchdowns is better than the team that racked up 14 garbage time points against backups (though in fairness, the difference isn’t much). Similarly, a team that wins 28-7 where they didn’t allow a fourth-quarter point isn’t much different (though still better) than a team that won 28-21 when all three touchdowns from the opposition came in the final minutes and the game was never in doubt. Once you find out the game script, you can adjust for opponent and create similar rankings.

Game Scripts
Rank Team
1 Indianapolis Colts
2 Denver Broncos
3 San Diego Chargers
4 Seattle Seahawks
5 San Francisco 49ers
6 Philadelphia Eagles
7 Detroit Lions
8 Baltimore Ravens
9 Arizona Cardinals
10 Cincinnati Bengals
11 Kansas City Chiefs
12 New England Patriots
13 Green Bay Packers
14 Houston Texans
15 Miami Dolphins
16 Buffalo Bills
17 Chicago Bears
18 Dallas Cowboys
19 Washington Redskins
20 New York Giants
21 Tennessee Titans
22 Atlanta Falcons
23 Cleveland Browns
24 New York Jets
25 Carolina Panthers
26 Pittsburgh Steelers
27 Oakland Raiders
28 Jacksonville Jaguars
29 St. Louis Rams
30 New Orleans Saints
31 Minnesota Vikings
32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It looks like last year’s comeback kids, the Indianapolis Colts (who actually finished with a negative game script last year because of the comebacks they had to pull off, despite the 11-5 record) lead the way. This year so far, it doesn’t look like they have to come back as much as they did earlier.

The opponent adjustment for game script ended up mattering a lot more than for point differential, with Arizona (18th to 9th), Buffalo (23rd to 16th), San Francisco (10th to 5th), New York Giants (25th to 20th) and Tennessee (26th to 21st) all experience major bumps. At the other end of the spectrum were even larger penalties. Pittsburgh (14th to 26th), Atlanta (12th to 22nd, in part thanks to Baltimore’s thwapping of Tampa Bay right after Atlanta did the same) and New Orleans (21st to 30th) all experienced massive drops.

We can also look at Drive Success Rate, which is more useful when it comes to separating the contributions of the offense, defense and special teams than it is at outright ranking, but has been a favorite team statistic of mine for some time now. It measures only a team’s abilities to get or prevent first downs. It doesn’t care about “third down efficiency” so much as how likely a team is to get a new set of downs or a touchdown with every opportunity, and it does that by adding up the total number of first downs a team produces, adds the touchdowns, then divides by the total number of drives and first downs (as every first down produces a new opportunity to create a first down, adding to both the numerator and the denominator).

As an example, a team who drives down the field from their own 5 to their opponent’s 15 before making a field goal, and grabbing six first downs on the way, ends up with a DSR on that drive of 0.857. If they had scored a touchdown, they would have a DSR of 1.000. On the other hand, if that same team started at the 50 and only drove 35 yards before attempting a field goal, they would at best have a DSR of .750, perhaps even as low as .500.

What’s really nice about the statistics is that it does a very good job of quieting the effect of field position. That is to say an offense ranked highly in DSR can have a difficult time putting points on the board because their defense keeps putting them in a terrible spot (or vice versa). It automatically incorporates turnovers (each turnover ends an opportunity to create a first down, obviously) and punishes teams for taking field goals (or alternatively, rewards defenses for forcing them).

I’m not too crazy about the differential as it’s not predictive, but it still does a good job of figuring out if the team can move the chains, whether or not they are generally successful and whether or not luck is playing an outsized role in their performances so far (if a team’s record is better than their DSR, they may be “too lucky” to count on in the future. If it’s the other way around, their wins may regress upwards). The biggest major issue with it is that teams that tend to rely on explosive plays will get unfairly discounted by it because getting a first down on a ten-yard play is counted the same as a first down on a 75-yard play.

So, the power rankings by Drive Success Rate differential (offense minus defense), adjusted for opponent:

Drive Success Rate
Rank Team
1 Dallas Cowboys
2 San Diego Chargers
3 New Orleans Saints
4 San Francisco 49ers
5 Indianapolis Colts
6 Carolina Panthers
7 Baltimore Ravens
8 Kansas City Chiefs
9 New York Giants
10 Chicago Bears
11 Denver Broncos
12 Cleveland Browns
13 Green Bay Packers
14 Cincinnati Bengals
15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
16 New England Patriots
17 Seattle Seahawks
18 Atlanta Falcons
19 Miami Dolphins
20 Tennessee Titans
21 Washington Redskins
22 Oakland Raiders
23 St. Louis Rams
24 Pittsburgh Steelers
25 Minnesota Vikings
26 Houston Texans
27 Philadelphia Eagles
28 Detroit Lions
29 Buffalo Bills
30 Arizona Cardinals
31 New York Jets
32 Jacksonville Jaguars

There are some massive differences here between the points-oriented rankings and this one. The average difference in rankings is actually eight ranks, which is massive. Still, there’s something to be said about measuring things differently if only to look at what might be the causal factors in a team’s success (special teams? Luck?).

The biggest differences between DSR and point differential may surprise you, although given how often some of these teams rely on explosive plays, it is perhaps not entirely unpredictable. The biggest penalties go to the Eagles (6th to 27th), the Lions (7th to 28th), the Cardinals (13th to 30th), the Seahawks (5th to 17th) and the Texans (14th to 26th). The biggest boons are for the Saints (22nd to 3rd), the Buccaneers (31st to 15th), the Panthers (21st to 6th), the 49ers (19th to 4th) and the Giants (20th to 9th).

Truthfully, the “true value” of a team likely lies somewhere in the middle of point differential and drive success rate, with some heavy emphasis on the former over the latter.

Ignoring either and simply looking at play-by-play data, I’ve constructed my own efficiency metric that was built on eight variables found to be predictive in the 2013 season. That may not be a robust sample size and it was crudely developed, but I think it provides more “truth” than any of the metrics above, even if it isn’t as good as FO’s DVOA or AFA’s Efficiency scores.

Homebrew Efficiency
Rank Team
1 Denver Broncos
2 Green Bay Packers
3 Cincinnati Bengals
4 Dallas Cowboys
5 Indianapolis Colts
6 San Diego Chargers
7 Seattle Seahawks
8 Baltimore Ravens
9 New England Patriots
10 Chicago Bears
11 Detroit Lions
12 New York Giants
13 Kansas City Chiefs
14 Buffalo Bills
15 San Francisco 49ers
16 Miami Dolphins
17 Houston Texans
18 Philadelphia Eagles
19 Washington Redskins
20 Carolina Panthers
21 Atlanta Falcons
22 Tennessee Titans
23 New Orleans Saints
24 Pittsburgh Steelers
25 St. Louis Rams
26 Cleveland Browns
27 Arizona Cardinals
28 Jacksonville Jaguars
29 Oakland Raiders
30 New York Jets
31 Minnesota Vikings
32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I’m hesitant of endorsing any metric that gives the Packers that much credit, but there you go. The variables, with different weights of course, are completion rate, net yards per attempt, passing touchdown rate, running touchdown rate, fumble rate, interception rate, yards per carry and run success rate.

As you can imagine, the bottom of the list will change over time because they’re all polluted by multiple quarterbacks for each team. As the season progresses, their performances should smooth out. That said, there are defensive ranks in there as well, so it’s not as if every rookie quarterbacked team is out of the woods. Compare these to other statistical rankings to get a feel for teams from a play-by-play perspective.

Holistic Efficiency Rankings
Avg Home AFA FO Team
1.0 1 1 1 Denver Broncos
3.3 3 2 5 Cincinnati Bengals
4.3 7 3 3 Seattle Seahawks
5.0 2 9 4 Green Bay Packers
6.7 4 6 10 Dallas Cowboys
7.0 8 11 2 Baltimore Ravens
8.0 6 10 8 San Diego Chargers
8.3 11 7 7 Detroit Lions
11.0 5 15 13 Indianapolis Colts
11.7 15 5 15 San Francisco 49ers
12.0 9 16 11 New England Patriots
12.3 16 4 17 Miami Dolphins
13.7 13 14 14 Kansas City Chiefs
14.3 26 8 9 Cleveland Browns
14.7 10 18 16 Chicago Bears
16.0 18 24 6 Philadelphia Eagles
18.0 19 12 23 Washington Redskins
18.3 12 22 21 New York Giants
18.3 14 23 18 Buffalo Bills
19.7 20 17 22 Carolina Panthers
20.3 23 13 25 New Orleans Saints
20.3 21 28 12 Atlanta Falcons
20.7 17 21 24 Houston Texans
21.3 24 20 20 Pittsburgh Steelers
22.3 22 19 26 Tennessee Titans
24.0 27 26 19 Arizona Cardinals
27.3 25 30 27 St. Louis Rams
27.7 30 25 28 New York Jets
29.0 29 29 29 Oakland Raiders
29.3 31 27 30 Minnesota Vikings
30.0 28 31 31 Jacksonville Jaguars
32.0 32 32 32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Be sure to check out Football Outsiders’ explanation for their rankings here (what’s up with Dallas?) and Advanced Football Analytics’ explanation here (they don’t explain Miami but do go into the Cleveland Browns).

I won’t go into much detail on my rankings (I suspect my model is overvaluing completions and undervaluing net yards, which is why Cleveland is ranked so low despite their decent success rate), but the differences are interesting enough to look into. The Seahawks are only ranked seventh in this model, in part because they’ve been allowing successful runs, even if they allow a low yards per carry.

Detroit loses ground in my model against the other two models because they are more likely to value net yards in the passing game than my model does on the offense, and the inconsistency from Stafford has a bigger inconsistency hit. My model overvalues Green Bay relative to the other ones for exactly the opposite reason, where Green Bay’s net yards are mediocre, but they’re consistency in gaining yards are pretty decent. My model favors the Colts and that feels like a red herring. Their defense against the pass is the worst in the NFL after adjusting for opponent, but their ability to prevent passing touchdowns so far has been unsustainably high—so they get a boost in my rankings that they probably shouldn’t.

All of these can be translated into a point differential, which can then be measured against Vegas. But first, let’s look at subjective power rankings from ESPN,, Bleacher Report, CBS, NBC, the Associated Press, SB Nation and Yahoo (SI hasn’t released power rankings for this week as of this writing).

Subjective Media Rankings
Team ESPN B/R CBS Yahoo Fox NBC AP SBN Avg
Denver Broncos 1 1 4 1 1 2 3 1 1 1.67
San Diego Chargers 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 2 3 1.89
Dallas Cowboys 3 4 1 4 4 4 2 3 2 3.00
Philadelphia Eagles 4 3 6 5 3 3 5 4 4 4.11
Seattle Seahawks 5 5 3 6 5 5 6 5 7 5.22
Arizona Cardinals 6 8 12 3 8 7 4 8 5 6.78
Indianapolis Colts 8 7 5 9 7 6 8 7 10 7.44
San Francisco 49ers 7 9 13 7 10 9 11 6 6 8.67
Green Bay Packers 9 6 11 10 9 11 7 9 8 8.89
Cincinnati Bengals 11 12 8 8 6 13 9 11 9 9.67
New England Patriots 10 11 7 11 11 12 12 10 12 10.67
Baltimore Ravens 12 10 9 12 12 10 10 12 11 10.89
Detroit Lions 13 13 10 13 13 8 14 13 13 12.22
Carolina Panthers 14 15 14 16 14 14 13 14 17 14.56
Cleveland Browns 15 14 17 17 15 15 15 15 14 15.22
Chicago Bears 16 17 16 18 16 18 18 16 15 16.67
Kansas City Chiefs 18 16 18 15 17 16 20 17 18 17.22
New York Giants 20 18 20 14 23 19 22 21 16 19.22
New Orleans Saints 16 23 15 20 19 22 17 20 22 19.33
Houston Texans 19 20 21 19 20 21 21 18 19 19.78
Buffalo Bills 21 21 22 22 18 20 16 19 21 20.00
Pittsburgh Steelers 22 19 24 21 21 24 19 22 20 21.33
Miami Dolphins 23 22 23 24 22 17 23 23 23 22.22
Atlanta Falcons 24 24 19 23 25 25 24 24 24 23.56
Minnesota Vikings 27 25 26 25 24 23 27 26 25 25.33
Tennessee Titans 25 28 29 26 28 29 26 25 26 26.89
New York Jets 29 29 25 29 26 26 25 29 27 27.22
St. Louis Rams 26 26 28 27 27 27 28 27 31 27.44
Washington Redskins 28 27 27 30 29 28 30 28 30 28.56
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 30 32 28 30 30 29 30 28 29.67
Oakland Raiders 31 31 30 31 31 31 32 31 29 30.78
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 32 31 32 32 32 31 32 32 31.78

Those rankings shouldn’t surprise you. Media rankings tend to do a few things: incorporate recency bias (often far too much), “win” bias (that is, instead of looking at quality of play, look at the record) and marginalize strength of schedule to a small degree. Of those above, the AP has the smallest difference from the group, while the Bleacher Report’s is the largest difference. That’s to be expected, there are a few rankings composed by individuals (B/R, CBS, NBC, Yahoo, and a few that are polls of reporters (AP, ESPN, SBN). For the most part, the individual rankings diverged far more than the group rankings.

The numbers people seem to disagree heavily when it comes to the Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles (except FO), Miami Dolphins (though that’s mostly AFA) and the Washington Redskins (who have an extremely underrated defense at the moment). There’s also significant disagreement on the Bengals.

Anyway, the numbers can be converted into spread outcome (NOTE: this is NOT how Advanced Football Analytics or Football Outsiders has argued is a good way to use their data, nor is it their official predictions against the spread—merely my recalculation of their probabilities into spread outcomes. Also, this isn’t gambling advice, etc.), so we can look at what Vegas thinks against the three efficiency systems.

Predictions Against the Spread
Game Vegas Prediction AFA Prediction FO Prediction Home Prediction
NYJ @ NWE NWE by 10 NWE by 6 NWE by 7.7 NWE by 9.1
ATL @ BAL BAL by 7 BAL by 9.4 BAL by 6.2 BAL by 7
TEN @ WAS WAS by 6 WAS by 3.5 WAS by 4.7 WAS by 3.6
SEA @ STL SEA by 7 SEA by 6.4 SEA by 4.3 SEA 2.4
CLE @ JAX CLE by 6 CLE by 4.9 CLE by 5.2 JAX by 2.3
CIN @ IND IND by 3 CIN by 2.4 IND by 1.2 IND by 2.4
MIN @ BUF BUF by 6 BUF by 4.5 BUF by 7.9 BUF by 8.6
MIA @ CHI CHI by 3.5 MIA by 0.5 CHI by 3.6 CHI by 4.4
NOR @ DET DET by 2.5 DET by 5 DET by 6.7 DET by 6.4
CAR @ GNB GNB by 7 GNB by 5 GNB by 7.4 GNB by 8.7
KAN @ SDG SDG by 4 SDG by 5 SDG by 4.1 SDG by 5
ARI @ OAK ARI by 3.5 OAK by 1.5 ARI by 1.0 OAK by 2.3
NYG @ DAL DAL by 6.5 DAL by 7.5 DAL by 5.3 DAL by 5.6
SFO @ DEN DEN by 6.5 DEN by 6.5 DEN by 8.1 DEN by 8.2
HOU @ PIT PIT by 3.5 PIT by 3.5 PIT by 4.3 PIT by 0.7

There you go. Denver is the best team in the league, though we’re probably wrong about that. Tampa Bay is the worst team in the league, something that I can almost guarantee you isn’t true when January rolls around.

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According to Chris Mortensen at ESPN, Adrian Peterson could face a suspension in his child injury case regardless of a Texas court verdict. The league owners held a meeting last week, and among the many topics included punishment sans conviction, which they agreed was possible for the league to do.

In the case of Adrian Peterson, Mortensen reports that sources say this is another one of those cases, to go alongside Adam Pacman Jones, Ben Roethlisberger and Brandon Marshall.

This is because any facts established in a legal proceeding themselves can be used in regards to the personal conduct policy, regardless of the court’s final verdict—where the law and the NFL’s personal conduct policy do not need to coincide.

Adrian Peterson has admitted to nearly everything he is accused of outside of intent—so the facts of the case as it regards the NFL should not be difficult to establish.

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The inactives list is out for both teams in the Lions-Vikings game, including marquee players like Teddy Bridgewater and Harrison Smith (in) and Chad Greenway, Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson (out). For the Vikings:

Mauti, Michael LB Foot FP FP FP Probable Active
McKinnon, Jerick RB Ankle FP FP FP Probable Active
Bridgewater, Teddy QB Ankle FP FP FP Probable Active
Asiata, Matt RB Groin FP FP FP Probable Active
Patterson, Cordarrelle WR Hip LP LP FP Probable Active
Floyd, Sharrif DT Elbow LP LP FP Probable Active
Smith, Harrison FS Ankle DNP LP LP Questionable Active
Greenway, Chad LB Hand/Rib DNP DNP DNP Doubtful Inactive
Rudolph, Kyle TE Abdomen DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Wentworth, Austin OL None Inactive
Watts, Brandon LB None Inactive
Line, Zach FB None Inactive
Yankey, David OG None Inactive
Crichton, Scott DE None Inactive

A large injury report, but no real worries, as nearly every play who is active, save Harrison Smith, participated fully in practice on Friday. Nothing hugely unexpected: the Vikings were optimistic about Harrison Smith this last week and pessimistic about Chad Greenway. With Kyle Rudolph and Greenway out, the Vikings have said that Rhett Ellison and Gerald Hodges are the starters.

Teddy Bridgewater is active and starting, like Vikings fans hoped.

It looks like Zach Line was promoted to see the bench.

For the Lions:

Couplin, Jerome S Ribs LP FP FP Probable Active
Bell, Joique RB Concussion FP FP FP Probable Active
Riddick, Theo RB Hamstring FP FP FP Probable Active
Vaughn, Cassius CB Ankle FP FP FP Probable Active
Bush, Reggie RB Ankle DNP DNP DNP Questionable Inactive
Fauria, Joseph TE Ankle DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Johnson, Calvin WR Ankle DNP DNP DNP Doubtful Inactive
Lewis, Travis LB Quadricep DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Moore, Kellen QB None Inactive
Webster, Larry DE None Inactive
Reynolds, Garrett OT None Inactive

Huge deal: the Lions are without star receiver and potent running weapon Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, which figures to be a huge downer for them. The Lions are 1-4 without Calvin (though admittedly that may not mean a lot—they are 36-74 with him) and one of those wins (and one loss) was against Minnesota. With the Lions performing this well despite their 3-2 record, this may not turn out to be the easy game fans were hoping for, even with Johnson and Bush out, but it may be easier than they would have gotten all year, especially at home—so they need to find a way to take advantage.

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Just a heads up to everyone interested:  There will be a hosted live chat during today’s game.

You can CLICK HERE to get set up at any point, but things will be getting underway right around kickoff.

I’ll bring the beer and nachos.

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