The Vikings haven't won a home game against the Lions since fans were still screaming "Touchdown, Teddy!!!" It was week 2 of the 2015 season, at TCF Bank Stadium in a 26-16 victory for the purple....In 2016, Blair Walsh missed both a FG and extra point, messed up a late kickoff(Walsh was cut a week later after the Vikings lost in Washington) and then nobody could tackle Golden Tate in overtime. L....Then last season, Dalvin Cook goes down with the ACL injury, Adam Thielen had one of 3 Vikings fumbles and the Lions escaped with a 14-7 W.
Sooooo, can we ditch that trend this Sunday?
Five of the eight remaining games on the schedule feature NFC North foes(Lions twice, Bears twice, Pack at home), which are absolutely vital for this team and its postseason aspirations. The following are some nuggets to chew on as we get closer to Sunday's nooner at US Bank Stadium!
1. The Lions running game might be a thing, unless it isn't
-The Lions appear to love second-round rookie Kerryon Johnson, maybe adding the quality at that RB position that the team has lacked for YEARS. He led the Kitties to their first 100yd rusher in a game for the first time in half a decade, he's averaging 6.1yds/carry and he has sprinkled in 21 catches for 158 yards as well. Weird thing is, only 4 teams in the NFL have fewer RB carries than the Lions. Johnson has only had 10+ attempts in 3 games this year, which coincidentally happen to be the three games Detroit has won. Johnson splits action with LaGarrette Blount who basically looks like he's running in slow motion, unless he's at the goal line or when he's running over Andrew Sendejo in the NFC title game. The team as a whole has only exceeded 100yds rushing twice this season, so if the Vikings can shut that down, it'll be Matt Stafford slinging it around the park trying to win. Johnson and fellow RB Theo Riddick have combined for 44 catches and 300yds out of the backfield.
2. Golden Tate is off to Philly
-Golden Tate might be the best YAC receiver in the NFL! Get the ball in his hands, he moves chains and makes plays. The Lions just dealt him to the Eagles for a 3rd Rd draft pick. He leads Detroit pass catchers in targets, receptions and yards....annnnnd he gone. So Marvin Jones is there. He had failed to top either 5 catches or 70 yards in a game this year until he notched 7rec/117yds/2TDs in last weekend's loss to Seattle. Stafford just doesn't look his way much. I know this, because he's on my fantasy team (1-7 and AWFUL fantasy team). His production goes up. Additionally, Kenny Golladay is a very nice player, 2nd year out of Northern Illinois and boasts big play, field stretching ability. Golladay has some ups and downs, tho. Week 1 he had 12 targets and 112yds receiving, while he's had a total of 3 targets the last 2 games. His numbers fluctuate, in part because his good games usually include torching a secondary on a 60yd bomb. They don't use the tight ends much, with Luke Willson the only TE with 10+ targets. Michael Roberts has 3 touchdowns on a total of 5 targets (very Aldrick Robinson-like), so he might be someone to watch in the Red Zone.
3. The Defense....
-New HC Matt Patricia doesn't have his defense in the right spot, yet. The Lions pass defense is just hideous right now...they allow a passer rating of 114.2 to opposing QBs(only Tampa is worse). They've given up 15 passing TDs to merely 2 INTs(only 4 teams in the NFL have fewer than 3 picks). Detroit's pass rush has been on point with 23 sacks (6 on Jimmy G, 4 on Rodgers, 4 on Brock Osweiler), good for 6th in the NFL (Vikings have 21 after not getting to Brees on Sunday night)....BUT...The Lions might prefer the Vikings run on them, however, because they're allowing 144yds a game on the ground! Run, run, RUNNNN! 5.1yds/carry, only 4 teams have allowed more than the 8 rushing scores conceded by Detroit. They give up nearly 27pts a game, which might explain the 3-4 record. Some things of note with the defense include DE Ziggy Ansah not collecting a stat since week 1 and being inactive for 3 straight games. Third year player Romeo Okwara looks to be filling in and is tied for the team lead with 5 sacks. Fourth round rookie Da'Shawn Hand(Alabama DE) has been starting and playing a ton as well. The team has been thin and just not great at DT as they lost Haloti Ngata in free agency, Kerry Hyder has missed several games with injury(had a couple sacks on Bradford in the 2016 game at US Bank), so they traded for Damon "Snacks" Harrison with the Giants. He should most definitely help stuff the run, but he just arrived a week ago and is still working his way into the defensive scheme. LBs Jarrad Davis and Devon Kennard are patrolling the middle of the field. Ultimately, forget everything else...we'll just be watching to see who stud CB Darius Slay lines up against in the pass game(Diggs or Thielen, good luck), and hope Latavius Murray can get big chunks on the bad rush defense.
-I'm just going to unload some thoughts....The long play with the Lions is that they're on the rise(I think). Right now, they're a middling team that should be playing catch-up all afternoon at US Bank Stadium. Matthew Stafford is a guy that isn't losing (or winning) any games for his team, but now has to adjust to playing without his favorite target as Golden Tate is out the door. I like the Vikings defense against the Detroit running backs, so eliminate the run and probably win the game. Follow that up by finding explosive runs with Latavius and hopefully Vikings will have a lead and not get away from it like they did against the Saints. I'm tired of Kirk Cousins getting beaten up every game so I'm PRAYING that LT Riley Reiff returns. In fact, how 'bout Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, Andrew Sendejo, Dalvin Cook, etc...all get healthy by the time the bye week is over????? Man, the O-Line is just putrid and Kirk holds on to the ball too long sometimes and it all adds up to tragedy. BUT...Adam Thielen will house the NFL record with a 9th consecutive game with 100+ receiving yards, surpassing Calvin Johnson, and he'll do it against Megatron's team!! That'll be awesome. If you have Super Bowl aspirations/dreams(tough to make a case for 'SB contender' at the moment), or even want to assure yourself of a playoff spot in January, DO NOT LOSE THIS GAME. The Vikings still haven't put a complete performance together at home. So why not offer up a mistake-free, turnover-free, wire-to-wire victory on Sunday against the Lions??? The Vikings will indeed win on Sunday, and they'll finally beat Detroit on US Bank Stadium turf. Party on.