In search of their first NFC North win of the season, the Vikings will travel to Detroit this weekend to take on the Lions. This marks the 101st meeting in the all-time series, and the second time this season the Vikings and Lions will share the field.
Against the Vikings in Week 3, the Lions erased a 20-0 halftime deficit and narrowly escaped Mall of America Field with a 3-point victory in overtime. That win for the Lions moved them to 3-0 and helped them to a 5-0 start. But as the Lions prepare for the Vikings this weekend, they’re trying to get out of a funk that’s seen them lose 3 of their last 4 games and 5 of their last 7.
The biggest issue surrounding the Lions right now is their propensity for penalties. Only 3 teams – Oakland, Seattle and Tampa Bay – have had more penalties called against them and only 1 team – Oakland – has had more penalties called against their defense. Highlighting this problem for the Lions is the fact that their best defensive player – DT Ndamukong Suh – is currently serving a 2-game suspension following his ejection from a Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers in which he was penalized for unnecessary roughness.
It will be interesting to see how the Lions respond this weekend as they return home for a game against the Vikings. The Lions had 3 more penalties after the whistle (and 11 penalties accepted overall) last week against the Saints, and both Head Coach Jim Schwartz and veteran leaders, such as C Dominic Raiola, were seen pulling players aside to speak with them about the penalties. Given that Suh will be missing from this game and that the Lions are in the thick of a playoff chase with just 4 games to go and are playing at home, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a more disciplined Lions team this Sunday.
As for the Lions between the whistles and before penalty flags are thrown, they’re a solid team that relies on the passing game and a high-scoring offense. The Lions boast the NFL’s 5th-ranked passing offense (281.3 yards per game) and the 4th-ranked scoring offense (27.8 points per game), and its QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson who lead the effort. Stafford is having the best season of his career, as he’s completed 63.0% of his passes and has a 27-14 TD-INT ratio. Johnson has been dominant all season and is tied for 2nd among all NFL WRs with 1,092 receiving yards. No WR has more TD catches than Johnson’s 12 and no WR is more dangerous in one-on-one situations or near the end zone than the 6-5, 236-pound playmaker.
If Stafford isn’t throwing it to Johnson, it’s likely that WR Nate Burleson or TE Brandon Pettigrew is the target. Pettigrew is 2nd on the team in receptions and Burleson is 2nd in receiving yards. With starting RB Jahvid Best out, expect the Lions to continue to lean heavily on the pass. No team has rushed the ball fewer times than the Lions this season.
Defensively, the story is Suh being out. But even with the playmaking DT out of the lineup, the Lions still have an intimidating defensive line. Sammie Hill will take Suh’s place in the starting lineup, and surrounding him on the front line are RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch, LDE Cliff Avril and fellow DT Corey Williams. Add guys like DE Lawrence Jackson and rookie DT Nick Fairley to the mix, and you can see that defensive line is one of the stronger areas of this Lions team.
The Lions are battling injuries in the secondary, as both run-thumping S Louis Delmas and CB Chris Houston missed last week’s game in New Orleans with knee injuries. S Chris Harris and CB Alphonso Smith are capable replacements, but the secondary is stronger with Delmas and Houston in the lineup; Houston leads the team in INTs with 4. The Lions have the NFL’s 11th-ranked pass defense, rank 4th in yards per attempt allowed (6.5) and have yielded a stingy 77.9 passer rating to opposing QBs.
A few other interesting Lions statistics…
— Detroit’s offense ranks 31st in 3rd down conversions (30.3%)
— The Lions rank 4th in the NFL with 23 takeaways (15 INTs) and they are +5 in turnover margin
— The Lions offense scores a TD on 59.5% of their red zone drives, which ranks 6th in the NFL
— No NFC WR has more receptions for 20+ yards than Calvin Johnson’s 17
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 17 Comments »