Week 10: Detroit Lions At Minnesota Vikings
- QuarterbackThe Lions are starting to hit their stride and that means Matthew Stafford is performing better. Stafford was calm and in control as the Lions went down to Jacksonville in Week Nine and took care of business by dispatching the Jaguars. Stafford completed 22-of-33 passes for 285 yards and that’s a good jumping off point for the second half of the season.Christian Ponder is a liability for the Vikings. Early in the season, the Vikings were winning games because of their running game, defense and special teams. Ponder never made a serious contribution and he is struggling badly at this point in the year. He is not throwing the ball with authority and he can’t go downfield with any consistency.
- OffenseCalvin Johnson is coming off his best game of the year. He caught seven passes for 129 yards against the Jaguars and when he is on his game, he becomes the top priority for opposing defenses. That opened things up for the running game. Mike Leshoure and Joique Bell combined for 143 yards and four TDs, and that’s quite formidable.The Vikings have a superior weapon in Adrian Peterson and he was at his best against the Seahawks. He ran with power and explosiveness and he totaled 182 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. The Vikings want to get more from Percy Harvin, but that requires a quarterback who can get the ball downfield with consistency.
- DefenseThe Lions want to punish opponents with their hard-hitting style. They played with some much-needed discipline (only five penalties) against the Jaguars as the Lions stayed in their lanes and made plays. Outside linebacker Justin Durant had a team-high seven tackles and was quite reliable. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is reliable.The Vikings are starting to struggle on the defensive end. They made Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson look like he should be an awards candidate. He’s not quite that good. The Vikings have shown cracks on the defensive end. The pass defense is vulnerable and Marshawn Lynch overpowered the run defense. The Vikings need Chad Greenway and Jared Allen to dominate.
- Special TeamsThe Lions bottomed out in the first meeting against the Vikings when they gave up both a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns. They are not much better at this point, but head coach Jim Schwartz has to get a better performance. Jason Hanson is a reliable placekicker, but he does not have the strongest leg at this point in his career.Since the Vikings are struggling so badly in the passing game, they need a huge victory by special teams in order to have a chance. Placekicker Blair Walsh and punter Chris Kluwe form a solid combination. Harvin should be a big factor on kickoff returns once again and so should Marcus Sherels on punt returns.
The Vikings are going in the wrong direction after an excellent start. They victimized the Lions in Week Four and they may get a large dose of payback in this game unless they can repeat the miraculous special teams play. The Lions have been starting to turn things around after a slow start.