Saturday, September 7, 2013

Vikings vs. Lions Preview

Daniel House previews a crucial divisional matchup to open the 2013 season vs. the Detroit Lions.

Tomorrow the Vikings open the 2013 campaign versus the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Last season, the team silenced the critics, en route to a playoff appearance and a 10-6 regular season record. Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, falling just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson's NFL single season rushing record. He added an NFL MVP to the trophy case, while displaying one of the greatest performances in league history. This season, Peterson has stressed his aspirations to rush for 2,500 yards, which would shatter the record he nearly broke last year. Tomorrow the team's quest to build upon the 2012 season begins, with high hopes for many Vikings fans. How does this team defeat the adversaries and begin 1 and 0?

Let's Gameplan.....

Broadcast Information:
Television: FOX (Channel 9 in Minneapolis)
 Thom Brennaman Analyst: Brian Billick Sideline Reporter: Laura Okmin

KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130

Paul Allen   Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman/Ben Leber
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman - 6:00 p.m. CT


John Parry- 13 year NFL referee

The History

The Vikings and Lions have played 103 times overall with Minnesota holding a 68-33-2 series record. This means the team has seen continued success against the Lions during the regular season campaign. The Vikings have opened the regular season versus the Lions on four occasions, with the Vikings holding a 3-1 advantage in those games. Minnesota has won 3 consecutive regular season meetings against the Lions and are looking to extend this trend during tomorrow's matchup.

Primary Focus

The center of attention during tomorrow's game will focus on reigning MVP Adrian Peterson's first game since a playoff loss to Green Bay in January. He matches up nicely with a Lions defense he has shredded in years past. In 11 career games against Detroit, Peterson has rushed for 100+ yards 7 times. In those games he has 36 rushes of 10+ yards. This bodes well for Christian Ponder who will be trying to find his new targets and produce a performance worthy of a Vikings win. Greg Jennings will see his first regular season action as a Minnesota Viking, along with rookie sensation Cordarrelle Patterson. If Peterson runs the ball well, the Lions may stack the box, which means Ponder will be awarded one on one coverage down the field. If he can prove himself early in the season, teams will need to choose a different method to stop Ponder or Peterson. Christian Ponder has witnessed continued success against the Lions in three meetings, throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions. If he can make good decisions and display pocket presence, the Vikings will be awarded a great chance to open with a win. 

On the Defensive

With a Lions offense that includes Calvin Johnson and a pocket passer in quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Vikings secondary needs to prove they can handle NFL passing with limited experience. Of course the secondary will struggle during moments of the season, especially if the defensive line can't pressure the quarterback. With three new starters among the Lions offensive line who started a combined 138 of 144 games since 2010, the Vikings defensive line needs to execute. They can't over pursue the pass rush with the new addition of Reggie Bush to the backfield, who is known for his role in the passing game, including screens. With Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen all in contract seasons, they need to play well early and often this season. Kevin Williams will miss Sunday's game with a knee injury, which means rookie Sharrif Floyd will see the bulk of the action in the middle of the defense. With the rotation and the uncertainty surrounding a young Lions offensive line, the defense must take advantage of inexperience, which will lead to turnovers.

Special Teams Primer

The Vikings displayed one of the best special teams units in the league last season and more notably in a week 4 with a matchup against the Lions. The punt team recorded a 77-yard return touchdown, along with a 105-yard kick return touchdown for Percy Harvin. The Vikings won the contest 20-13, despite a lackluster offensive performance. With Jeff Locke added as the punter, he will need to pin the Lions in their territory, setting up a better situation for the Vikings defense. The Lions are a team that executes when given short field position, especially with the large statured connections they have among their wide receiving corps. Kicker Blair Walsh needs to convert on all opportunities, especially against a divisional team at the start of the season. With uncertainty surrounding the continuity amongst Walsh, Locke, and long-snapper Cullen Loeffler, they need to show they have fixed any issues in the flow of the kick team.

The Injury Report

NamePositionInjuryPractice StatusGame Status
McLeod Bethel-ThompsonQBIllnessFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Chris CookCBGroinFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Larry DeanLBShoulderFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Sharrif FloydDTKneeFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Letroy GuionDTFingerFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Erin HendersonLBHeelFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Phil LoadholtTKneeFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Cordarrelle PattersonWRBackFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Mistral RaymondCBShoulderFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Harrison SmithSBackFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Kevin WilliamsDTKneeDid Not Participate In PracticeOut
Ezekiel AnsahDEConcussionFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Louis DelmasSKneeDid Not Participate In PracticeProbable
Jason JonesDEKneeDid Not Participate In PracticeProbable

The injury situation won't be an issue for the Vikings, with Kevin Williams being the only player listed as out. All others on this list are expected to play, barring a major setback.

From a Lions standpoint, first-round draft pick Ezekiel Ansah suffered a concussion during the preseason, but participated fully in practice on Friday. The team seems tentative about risking further injury to a prized possession, so expect Ansah to be a game-time decision.

The Final Keys to Victory

As discussed throughout this post, the Vikings need stability from the secondary and a pass rush from the defensive line. If Stafford is pressured early, he will make poor decisions, resulting in turnover opportunities. From an offensive standpoint, Ponder needs to be consistent, play well in the pocket, and more importantly make good decisions during all moments of Sunday's contest. If all of these keys are accomplished against a young Lions roster the Vikings have a great chance to win the 2013 opener in Detroit.

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