After last week’s stunning loss against the Tennessee Titans, the 1-2 Detroit Lions will look to get back into the winner’s circle at the friendly confines of Ford Field in Detroit. In order to do that, they will have to defeat a 2-1 Minnesota Vikings squad fresh off an impressive 24-13 victory over a team that many think is the best in the entire NFL in the San Francisco 49ers.
Sitting a 1-2 before their week 5, this contest can almost be considered a must win game for the Lions, even at this early point in the season. Immediately following their bye, the team plays consecutive road games at Philadelphia and Chicago. Not exactly a favorable schedule. A 1-4 start would damage Detroit’s playoff hopes immensely, while a 1-5 start would essentially put the nail in the coffin for Detroit in 2012.
With that in mind, expect the Lions to come out hungry against their division rival.
Last season, the Lions swept the season series with a 26-23 win in week 3 and a 34-28 win in week 14 in 2011.
Detroit played extremely flawed football last Sunday, allowing five touchdowns that went for at least 60 yards a piece, an NFL record. They will need to make sure they contain Adrian Peterson, who keeps asking for more carries he continues to improve from off-season ACL surgery. As long as the Lions are able to keep Peterson in check for most of the game, that will force quarterback Christian Ponder to beat them.
Although Ponder has shown improvement during his sophomore season, throwing for 713 yards to go along with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, he still relies on opposing defenses focusing their gameplan around Adrian Peterson and stopping the run. As long as the Lions can get even a little pressure on Ponder to knock him a bit off balance, they should be able to hold him in check as he has yet to develop much off a deep ball and likes to use wide receiver Percy Harvin with short passes.
The Minnesota Vikings defense might just be the toughest that Detroit has seen also season. Their passing defense is ranked eighth in the league and their rushing defense comes in at 13th. Detroit will need Mikel LeShoure to show the promise that he did last week against the Titans, where he became the first Lions running back to rush for at least 100 yards in his debut since Billy Sims in 1980.
With a passing game that is beginning to click at the helm of Matthew Stafford and a running game that may have finally emerged with Mikel LeShoure leading the ground attack, expect the Lions offense to control the game and the clock. The Vikings secondary will also be forced to double team Calvin Johnson, which will be especially difficult without the services of their starting safety in Mistral Raymond. In turn, this will put too much pressure on the front seven of the Vikings to put pressure on Stafford and stop LeShoure.
The emergence of Mikel LeShoure coupled with the Lions home-field advantage and a sense of desperation gets them the victory against the Vikings.
Prediction: Lions 23, Vikings 20
Note: After being knocked out of the game against the Titans during the fourth quarter, Matthew Stafford is expected to play after being officially listed as probable with a hip injury. Mikel LeShoure is listed as questionable with a groin strain, although he too is expected to take the field.
About the Author
Written by Matt Austin