With some strange scheduling, the Vikings will wrap up their two game season series with the Detroit Lions prior to facing either the Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers. Although odd, you can make an argument that this is for the best, seeing Detroit seems to be reeling in 2015, regardless of recording their first victory of the season last weekend.
Thought to be a challenger for NFC North supremacy entering the season, the Lions have purred more than roared and find themselves looking at a top 10 draft pick this upcoming spring.
Because the Vikings faced the Lions in week 2, there should be plenty of game film for the teams to review. With that, come new wrinkles in hopes of not becoming overly predictable. Will it be enough to throw off the Vikings defense? I don’t think so. Still, let’s review our preview from week 2 and see what has changed as we have crossed the quarter season mark.
What Was Said In Week 2:
Going into the first game against the Lions, there was plenty of panic in Vikings land. The defense had been dominated by the run and pass by a bad 49ers team and there was plenty of concern about the defense being able to stop what we thought was a potent Lions offense.
There is always concern about stopping Calvin Johnson as a lot of the Lions offense will be directed his way. Johnson’s 488 yards of receiving is good for 22% of the entire Lions’ offensive production. It’s no surprise that they will look to get him involved early and often.
Johnson did record 10 catches against the Vikings with Xavier Rhodes shadowing him through out the game. Although Johnson was limited to 83 yards receiving, he did come away with a nice touchdown catch prior to halftime.
It is obvious that limiting Johnson’s impact on the game will be paramount, but so will be stopping Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Combining for 11 catches and 123 yards and a touchdown in week 2, Tate and Ebron can certainly create some trouble for the secondary if too much focus is turned to Johnson.
Aside from the passing game, there was plenty of worry that Lions would be able to move the ball via the run game fairly easily. I commented at the time that Joique Bell seemingly always had a big game against the Vikings, but the defense limited him to only 2 yards on 4 carries.
If Bell is the thunder, then rookie Ameer Abdullah is the lightning to the Lions running game. Abdullah only registered 6 carries in week 2, but those 6 carries were the most of any Detroit running back. Ignoring the four rushes by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions only rushed the ball 12 times in the first head to head match up.
Since Week 2:
Johnson’s 10 receptions in week 2 is a season high, but he is averaging more than 10 targets a game over the last four weeks and is coming off his best game of the year against the Bears, recording 6 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown.
In the passing game, something should be said about Golden Tate, who has already recorded 32 receptions on the year. Tate has seen 55 targets thus far, second to only Johnson’s 63 targets for the Lions. Tate will be involved, but he’s averaging 9.5 yards per catch, so he’s not exactly stretching the field. I wouldn’t doubt if Captain Munnerlyn, who is have a good season for the Vikings, spent time looking to corral Tate.
Something that surprise me when reviewing this Lions team is that running back Theo Riddick has recorded 33 catches and 2 touchdowns out of the backfield. Hauling in nearly 20% of all Detroit completions, Riddick is technically second on the team in receptions and touchdowns, which isn’t something you’d expect to find on an offense loaded with supposed playmakers.
Abdullah on the other hand, has not seen as many carries as many would have thought going into the season. After touching the ball 7 times for a total of 25 yards against the Bears, Abdullah’s only way to hurt the Vikings is with explosive plays. That’s not to minimize Abdullah’s impact, he can absolutely take one to the house with limited touches.
Abdullah is the top rusher for the Lions this year with whopping 179 yards in 6 games, the Lions run game isn’t something that creates a lot of fear for opposing defenses.
As a defensive unit, you have to think they are licking their lips knowing they’ll be able to get after Stafford again after hitting him early and often in week 2. Stafford, although completing 64% of his passes, has already thrown 9 INTs and isn’t afraid to throw blindly if he feels pressure. If you get to Stafford, the Lions offense falls apart.
I don’t want to be overly cocky, but this should be an easy win for the Vikings. Once worried after their poor week 1 showing, this Lions squad hasn’t shown any kind of pulse in 2015 that would command much worry.
Ultimately, if Zimmer and crew lay a dud on the road, they should walk back from Detroit. As far as I am concerned, the Vikings should be 4-2 Monday morning.