The Vikings head to Detroit tomorrow to face the Lions, a team they’ve beaten 10 times in a row, including 8 under former head coach Mike Tice. Now, I know Detroit has mostly stunk in recent years, but even a franchise as plagued by mediocrity and downright badness as that one has no business being beaten by a Mike Tice-coached team 8 times consecutively. There’s no excuse for that. Even if six of those losses happen with Joey Harrington at QB.
Of course Joey Harrington is gone now – the Lions have a brash Jon Kitna at QB (which did them no good last year as the Vikings still beat them twice). They also have rookie Calvin Johnson lining up at wide receiver, to go with Roy Williams. This gives them a formidable passing attack – and we know the problems the Vikes have had stopping the pass. Of course, the Vikings are a new team too. They’ve got Leslie Frazier at defensive coordinator, a guy who likes to blitz. Frazier’s new, more-aggressive scheme yielded six sacks last week – against Joey Harrington. Will Jon Kitna feel as much pressure as Harrington did? Will the Vikings’ DBs be able to slow down Johnson and Williams?
The Lions’ main defensive concern will be slowing down Adrian Peterson, last week’s offensive rookie of the week. Chester Taylor probably won’t play, and will be limited even if he does – so look for AD to go over 20 carries. And look for the Vikes to work AD into the passing game as they did last week. Hopefully, we will also see a big contribution from our wide receivers, who were much too quiet against the Falcons. Robert Ferguson will take the field for the first time this season, so that should help.
It’s still early in the season, and hard to get a read on whether either of these teams is for real. Detroit looked pretty good against Oakland overall, but did blow a 17-point lead at one point. The Vikings dominated Atlanta pretty thoroughly on defense, but were less-than-stellar on offense (outside of Adrian). This looks like a classic match-up of high-flying offense vs. stifling defense. The Lions will likely be rolling without leading rusher Kevin Jones or back-up T.J. Duckett, so that means they’ll be airing it out more than usual. The Lions probably see this match-up as a chance to establish their offensive identity – they think they’re pretty good, and want to prove it against one of the league’s better defenses.
Detroit’s at home, and seem to have a chip on their shoulder. They’re due for a win against the Vikings in a big way. That’s why, this week, I have to pick against the Purple. I give the edge to Detroit 21-17.