Vikings Rival Quietly Lost a Huge Piece

A Detroit Lions fan shows off his sign during action against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Detroit Lions will be without their keynote offseason addition for an indefinite period, possibly the rest of the 2023 season.

Defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a torn pectoral muscle, a costly move for the hungry Lions hoping to win a division title for the first time in three decades.

Vikings Rival Quietly Lost a Huge Piece

The 33rd Team’s Ari Meriov tweeted Tuesday, “The Lions have officially placed S/CB C.J. Gardner-Johnson and DE James Houston on Injured Reserve. Two big blows to the defense.”

Lost a Huge
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports.

With Gardner-Johnson in the lineup, Detroit’s defense ranks 23rd leaguewide through two weeks per DVOA, so it’s not like head coach Dan Campbell’s men were thriving from the jump. Now, they must circumvent the loss of the veteran defender who led the NFL in interceptions a season ago as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Campbell said about the injury, “I hate it. That’s tough, but we’ll see where this thing goes. There’s a chance he comes back this season. Listen, we’ve got Tracy (Walker), man. That’s why Tracy Walker’s here. He’s somebody that there’s a reason why we wanted to re-sign him, he was coming off injury, and it’s next man up. Here we go.”

Detroit Lions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (2) waves at the crowd during the second half against Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Lions host the Atlanta Falcons in five days — a team that just beat the Green Bay Packers — and are three-point Vegas favorites to prevail.

Campbell said about the injuries’ impact on the upcoming matchup, “We may be thin this game. We did, we got hit. We’ve been pretty good up until this point in this part of the season, and we got hit with the bug. We got hit with it last year early in the year, so we’ve got to weather this storm. It’s why we’ve got the guys that we have on this roster that we have at these positions. The reason why we have these guys on the vet squad ready to pull them up or put them on the roster.”

Detroit still has a 50-50 shot at winning the NFC North, with or without Gardner-Johnson, according to oddsmakers. The Lions have a -105 moneyline to win the division, with the Packers at +200, Vikings at +500, and disappointing Chicago Bears laughably living at +1300.

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, first-round picks receiver Jameson Williams, and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson pose for a picture with GM Brad Holmes during the press conference Friday, April 29, 2022, at the Detroit Lions practice facility in Allen Park. MAIN Lionspicks. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Campbell’s group won its Week 1 matchup on the road versus the undermanned Kansas City Chiefs, a team, at the time, sans its two best non-Patrick-Mahomes players in Travis Kelce and Chris Jones. Then, on Sunday, the Lions returned to earth, losing at home to the Seattle Seahawks 37-31 in a rollercoaster overtime affair.

The Vikings play the Lions twice in three weeks to end the 2023 regular season, and it is unclear if Gardner-Johnson will be back by then.

Garnder-Johnson boasted a 70.7 Pro Football Focus grade before the injury.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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