We’ve got five big questions headed into this weekend’s epic showdown with the Detroit Lions…
1. Can the Vikings just hand it off 50 times?
This is a serious question. Cause I don’t see any way the Vikings generate a passing game this week. Not with Percy Harvin out. All due respect to Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson, but this receiver corps without Percy is a joke. Bill Musgrave can talk all he wants about tweaking routes and protections. The truth is there’s only so much you can do with this personnel. There are no downfield receivers and Christian Ponder is just a mess mentally and mechanically right now. The game will be on Adrian Peterson even more than usual. How do you think Adrian will look against 10 in the box? Hey, maybe Kyle Rudolph can get it cranked up. We need some two tight end action with Kyle and Allen Reisner. Oh boy. This is gonna be good.
2. What, if anything, will Jarius Wright bring to the table?
Like a lovesick lady, the Vikings have been waiting all year for Mr. Wright. Cute huh? I rather liked it myself. But now that Mr. Wright is here, will he prove to be Mr. Right? Or will he be just another puzzle piece that doesn’t fit? We’ll see what Musgrave’s plan is. The obvious approach would be to use Wright as a Percy fill-in. How is Wright on those bubble screens? I can’t imagine him being as effective as Harvin. Percy is a unique talent. The way he can go from a full stop to full speed is actually incredible. His burst is like no one else’s. His ability to read the situation instantly and hit that first hole and just fly through it. And run over the first poor fool who tries to tackle him. Wright has some big shoes to fill.
3. How will Christian Ponder get along without his security blanket?
Is there any doubt now that Ponder’s early season success was almost entirely about Percy Harvin? But now Ponder won’t have that security blanket. He’ll have to find something else. Adrian Peterson said this could be good for Ponder from a growth point of view. I don’t know if I agree with that though. If we accept the premise that the other receivers are just terrible and can’t get any separation. Having Percy out won’t make them better at getting open. And it won’t change the fact that Ponder clearly struggles with reads. Adrian’s grasping at straws there. Everyone’s grasping at straws. Trying to make a really woeful situation seem less dire.
4. Hey, you realize Percy Harvin isn’t officially out for this game. He could still play you know.
Would it surprise anyone if Percy made a miracle recovery and played anyway? It wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact I wonder if Percy isn’t milking the injury a little bit. He has kind of a Favre streak. He likes looking more hurt than he is so he can come back in and be the hero. But this time I suspect the injury is more legit. And if it’s legit then I think the Vikings will do the smart thing and shut him down. He’ll probably try to talk his way onto the field, just like Favre would, but Frazier needs to stand tall. Frazier needs to let Percy know who is the head coach and who is the player. Sometimes I think Percy forgets that. If Percy is only 80%, forget it. Don’t even let him dress. If there’s even the merest sign of a limp, shut him down. Live to fight another day.
5. Hey defense, let’s get it together, okay?
The Vikings had a good plan the last time against Detroit and they executed it well. Detroit will surely come out with some new wrinkles this time but I think the Vikings can still handle them. Mikel Leshoure isn’t Marshawn Lynch. And the Vikes showed they have a good plan against Calvin Johnson. I know they won’t have Chris Cook out there but Cook wasn’t exclusively lined up on Johnson the last time anyway. Detroit moved Johnson around, lining him up in the slot a lot to get him matched up against the smaller Antoine Winfield. And Antoine did fine. The Vikes just smacked Johnson around – Chad Greenway got carried away and received a large fine for his efforts – and Johnson went alligator arms. No reason that plan can’t work again. I’m more worried about Titus Young anyway. Young is emerging. Overall, the Vikes just need to play smarter especially in the linebacker corps. Watch the tape and you can see where the issues are. Too many guys getting out of their gaps. Too many missed tackles. Last time around against Detroit, the Vikes shelved the blitz and dropped into coverage and it worked well. They weren’t quite so aggressive coming up to stop the run because Leshoure didn’t scare them. I don’t see any reason to get away from that fundamental game plan. Leave Harrison Smith over the top. Just play with seven in the box. Force the Lions into dink-and-dunk mode. MAKE THE TACKLES. Detroit doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before. So this should be less of a disaster on the defensive side. I hope.
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