Vikings Face a Miniature Juggernaut on Sunday

Vikings Face a Miniature Juggernaut on Sunday
Feb 26, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Georgia running back D'Andre Swift. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s unlikely that the Lions play like “the Lions” when the Minnesota Vikings host the Lions on Sunday.

Detroit arrives in Minneapolis this weekend, owners of a 1-1 record and an offense that is turning heads.

Plopped on the world’s radar by HBO’s Hard Knocks, Detroit is living up to — and exceeding — early expectations in 2022. The Lions defense is still a grotesque creature, but the offense is humming, at least according to the numbers.

Did the Lions Give the Vikings a Gameplan?
Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Led by the scrappy-as-hell Dan Campbell, the Lions have taken on the persona of their head coach and sprinted to a rip-roaring start on offense. Not convinced? Glance at the metrics:

Detroit Lions Offense,
Thru Week 2 of 2022:

TD Scored = 1st
Yards per Rush = 1st
Points Scored = 2nd
Yards Gained = 4th
EPA/Play = 7th
Offense DVOA = 8th

And this damage is all done on the right shoulder of a productive game-manager quarterback, Jared Goff. The ex-Los Angeles Rams signal-caller ranks around the 19th-best in the NFL among quarterbacks at the moment, but Detroit’s offense is racking up points nevertheless.

Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift (32) and Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and cornerback Patrick Peterson. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

The star of the show is running back D’Andre Swift — with a side dish of a man named Amon-Ra St. Brown. Swift is slicing and dicing defenses to the tune of 10 yards per carry. Yes — 10 years per rushing attempt. When Swift touches the ball, he gets a first down, mathematically speaking. Through two weeks, his pace is historic:

Most Yds per Carry,
Thru Week 2 of a Season,
NFL History:
(min. 20 att)

1. Jim Brown = 11.3 (1963)
2. C.J. Spiller = 10.1 (2012)
t3. D’Andre Swift = 10.0 (2022)
t3. Tiki Barber = 10.0 (2000)
4. Raymont Harris = 9.5 (1997)
5. Verl Lillywhite = 9.1 (1951)
6. Aaron Jones = 9.1 (2022)

Couple Swift’s ball-carrying terrorism with the Vikings 32nd-ranked rushing defense DVOA, and the purple team could have a problem. That’s right — per rushing defense DVOA, Minnesota’s defense is the worst in the world.

Ed Donatell Fails First Test
Sep 14, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports,

After that, if Ed Donatell’s defense slows down the Lions rushing attack, it must combat upstart Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. He’s tabulated 180 receiving yards in two games, along with 3 touchdowns. The 180 receiving yards rank 10th in the NFL, while the 3 receiving paydirts are second behind Stefon Diggs.

Assume, for a moment, that Minnesota clamps Swift and St. Brown. Then, T.J. Hockenson is in the middle of the field, and he’s a Top 10 TE. The Lions also employ the league’s sixth-best offensive line, per Pro Football Focus.

Finally, the Vikings could be without safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Andrew Booth, listed on the initial Week 3 injury report as “did not practice.” A shootout might be on the docket for Sunday.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).