Today is Wednesday, and that means the focus on vikings.com and at Winter Park will shift to preparing for this Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. We’ll delve into further detail about the Lions over the next few days, but here are a few basics…
– These are not the Lions of the recent pass. Head Coach Jim Schwartz’s group is no longer the perennial doormat of the NFC North. They are 2-0 on the young 2011 season and they’ve done it in style, outlasting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20 on the road in Week 1 and then throttling the Kansas City Chiefs 48-3 at Ford Field last weekend.
– You can’t help but notice and be impressed by Detroit’s offense through the first two games, specifically QB Matthew Stafford. The Lions chose Stafford with the #1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and now that pick is paying massive dividends. He has completed 65.3% of his passes for 599 yards with 7 TDs and 2 INTs, which adds up to a passer rating of 112.0. The Lions rank 2nd in the NFL in scoring with 37.5 points per game, have yet to give up a sack and they’re +6 in turnover margin.
– As well as Stafford is playing this season, the Lions have actually maintained a pretty good offensive balance. Of their 9 TDs this season, 7 are through the air and just 2 are on the ground. But, Detroit has called the 4th-most rushing plays and just the 13th-most passing plays. While they’re averaging just 3.3 yards per rush, they are at least sticking with the run enough to have a balanced attack.
– Where Detroit becomes a bit unbalanced, though, is in critical situations such as 3rd downs and the red zone. The Lions have had 26 third-down snaps and 22 of those snaps have been passes (84.6%). They’ve also had 32 red zone snaps and 20 of them have been passes (62.5%). So Detroit can be pretty pass-heavy in big situations, but how can you blame them for that with Stafford pulling the trigger and superstar WR Calvin Johnson out there running routes?
– Defensively, the Lions are mostly very good to solid. They are the NFL’s 7th-ranked defense in yards allowed and the 2nd-ranked defense in points allowed. They are also ranked 7th in pass defense (allowing 187.5 yards per game) and they’re tied with Baltimore for the League lead in takeaways with 8.
– From a personnel standpoint on defense, the top group is the defensive line. Ndamukong Suh is quickly developing into an elite DT; in fact, he’s probably already elite. And then coming off the edge the Lions have Kyle Vanden Bosch, who already has 2.0 sacks this season. Fifth-year LB Justin Durant leads the team in tackles, CB Chris Houston has 2 INTs on the season and you always have to watch S Louis Delmas, who is aggressive in run support and always seems to be around the ball.
– The one vulnerability I see in this defense is in the run game. The Lions are yielding 4.6 yards per carry and 103.5 yards per game, which ranks 23rd and 13th in the NFL, respectively. The Vikings, meanwhile, rank 3rd in yards per carry with a 5.8-yard average and 3rd in yards per game with a 172.5-yard average. Also, Detroit’s two opponents have logged just 22.5 rushes per game, while the Vikings have averaged 29.5 rushes per game so far. I expect the Vikings to challenge the Lions with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart early and often to see if Suh and Co. can hold up against a powerful ground game.
– Last week the Lions defense allowed just 3 points to the Kansas City Chiefs, an impressive display no doubt. But consider this…Chiefs star RB Jamaal Charles was lost for the game (and, subsequently, the season) at the end of the first offensive series. Prior to Charles leaving the game, Kansas City ripped off runs of 24, 8, 24, 5 and 3 yards (12.8 yards per carry).
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 145 Comments »