I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the season is on the line for the Vikings this afternoon at home against the Detroit Lions. 0-2 is troublesome; 0-3 would be catastrophic. Especially when you consider who our next four opponents are. In case you haven’t looked at the schedule lately, the next four games, after a bye week, are against the Jets, Cowboys, Packers and Patriots.
To those who think today’s game isn’t a must-win…how do you like the Vikings’ chances against those four teams coming off a home loss against the Lions? Where do you think the team’s morale will be if they lose two straight at the Metrodome after running the table at home last year? Where do you think Brett Favre‘s head will be if he plays as poorly today as he did the second half against Miami?
I don’t believe the Vikings are panicking after starting 0-2 (even though their breathless and ultimately futile pursuit of Vincent Jackson looked for all the world like a panic move). But if they go 0-3? Then I believe they will start to legitimately lose their shit. Brad Childress in all-out panic mode is something I personally don’t want to witness. It’s painful enough watching him operate under calm circumstances.
If, however, the Vikings are able to cobble together a reasonably effective offense today against Detroit and go into the off-week 1-2? Then I think the season will be salvageable. Then that tough four-game stretch will not look quite so daunting.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The task at hand is defeating the Detroit Lions. That task somehow never ends up being as easy as we expect. This year, the Lions come in looking spunky, having given both the Bears and Eagles a run for their money. They may be 0-2, but that pall of misery that usually surrounds them is gone. They’ve played well enough to actually be optimistic.
The fear, for me, is that the Vikings won’t be able to get the offense rolling early, and the Lions will hang around and have a chance in the fourth quarter. They showed against the Bears, Calvin Johnson‘s nincompoopery notwithstanding, that they can put together a winning drive late in hostile territory.
The key is to jump on this team, and give them back that bitter, losing feeling they know so well. That means more than just trying to run Adrian Peterson down their throats. Yes, I know Favre has no faith in his receivers right now – hell, according to him he doesn’t even know which receiver is which – but you still have to come out throwing. The Vikes had the right idea last week against Miami when they started off in a lot of three- and four-wide sets, and tried to attack the Dolphins’ inexperienced secondary. If Percy Harvin is able to play, I would go to him early and often, as they did against the Dolphins. Hopefully, this time, Percy will be able to hang on to the ball near the endzone. And hopefully he will not get hurt (the Vikings’ offense really went down a notch last week after he had to leave the game).
Of course, no offensive game plan is worth a damn if the big guys up front can’t keep the other team’s big guys off their quarterback (who in our case is old and moves like the statue of himself that will never be erected outside Lambeau Field). I mention this because the strength of the Lions’ defense is their line, which now features man-beast Ndamukong Suh and feisty Kyle Vanden Bosch. Things could get ugly if John Sullivan plays against Suh the way he played against Miami’s linemen last week. I have no desire to see the Metrodome turf’s painted with Brett Favre’s innards.
Defensively, the Vikes just need to keep rolling. They contained Brandon Marshall last week, so whatever they did to him, they need to do again to Calvin Johnson. Frankly, Johnson doesn’t worry me as much as Jahvid Best. He ascended to official freak status last week vs. the Eagles, and I imagine the Lions will try to feature him heavily again this week, both running and catching. If the Vikes take away the deep stuff as they usually do, the short over-the-middle stuff will probably be there for Best. I say hit the kid in the mouth a couple times and see if he keeps holding on to the ball. Also, I’d like to see Jared Allen get it cranked up. He got into the game more last week against the Dolphins after nearly vanishing vs. the Saints, and this week, he needs to go nuts. A 3-sack performance would be nice.
Despite the anxious vibe now hovering around the Vikings, I think there is reason to not only hope for victory today but actually expect it. You’re at home against the Lions, you’ve got some pretty good offensive weapons that you just haven’t been using well, you’ve got a strong defense that always looks extra-fast on the home turf. If you can turn them over early, and capitalize offensively when you get those chances, there’s every reason to believe you should rout this team. However, like I said before, if the offense sputters early…all bets are off.
Join me during the game today on SideLion Report where I will be participating in the site’s live blog.