Saturday, October 24, 2015

Vikings vs. Lions Preview

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The Vikings will continue NFC North action as they travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. Daniel House previews the game and discusses the importance of winning on the road in the NFL. 

Updated: October 24th, 2015 11:32am

By: Daniel House

The Vikings will continue NFC North divisional action as they travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. After knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs 16-10 last week, Minnesota is looking to continue their momentum. Last week's win wasn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but the defense managed to play well enough to overshadow any offensive inefficiencies. What's more, the Vikings will need to prove they can win on the road. They've lost 15 of their last 17 games away from Minnesota and haven't been comfortable in that situation. In week two, they convincingly knocked off the Lions 26-16 and demoralized quarterback Matthew Stafford in the process. Much of the same will be necessary in the second matchup with Detroit if the Vikings want to knock off a diminutive 1-5 squad.

Moving it through the air

The Vikings offense hasn't been extremely effective in the passing game and will need to be during a road divisional game. Teddy Bridgewater threw two critical interceptions last week, but it didn't prove costly. Stefon Diggs is expected to start again this week and was one of the primary weapons through the air. The offense as a whole needs to be more effective in the red zone. Last week against Kansas City, some critical mistakes were made inside the 20-yard line. To win on the road, you must be able to take advantage of all the opportunities you are awarded. Being successful in the passing game starts by spreading the ball around to different receivers. If Diggs, Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson, and Jarius Wright can haul in some catches, Teddy Bridgewater will get in a better rhythm. Bridgewater threw for just 153 yards and touchdown in a September matchup with Detroit, but Adrian Peterson rushed for 134 yards on ground. It's almost certain the Vikings will be forced to pass more on the road if they want to win. Nonetheless, they must take advantage of a great matchup against a Lions secondary that has allowed the tenth-most passing yards to opposing offenses this season.

Protection and run blocking are key

The Vikings pass protection was better last week and they allowed just two sacks. However, the pocket was still jammed and it forced Teddy Bridgewater to make some plays with his feet. In their last matchup with Detroit, the offensive line allowed just one sack. This will be key during the second matchup, as well. The Lions can't dictate the line of scrimmage and if they do, it will be a long day for the Vikings. Finally, the run blocking must improve as establishing a presence on the ground will be important. Adrian Peterson carried the ball 26 times for just 60 yards against Kansas City last week. Mike Zimmer indicated the run blocking didn't leave Peterson many lanes and that it can't happen again. Peterson rushed for 134 yards in week two against Detroit and the Vikings clearly dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Once again, winning the battles up front will be critical as the Vikings look to continue their winning ways.

Shutting down the passing game 

Last week, Calvin Johnson posted his first 100-yard game of the 2015 season as he hauled in six receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. Matthew Stafford finally connected with Johnson on a  consistent basis for the first time in the new campaign. Johnson had 83 yards and a score in the week two matchup with the Vikings. Xavier Rhodes did a relatively good job keeping him in check, but will need to be aware as Johnson talents are emerging again. Against Kansas City, Rhodes didn't have his best week in coverage and was a little grabby in the second level. He'll need to recover quickly as Calvin Johnson will provide a great challenge. Rhodes worked on his coverage skills using boxing gloves this week and Jerry Gray spent quite a bit of time working on some technique aspects of his game.

Pressuring Matthew Stafford

In the matchup with the Detroit earlier in the season, the Vikings knocked Matthew Stafford around. He was sacked just once, but was hit eight times, while being pressured even more. In fact, he got x-rays on his chest after the game. Everson Griffen will be returning after missing last week's game with an illness. However, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd will not play in this contest with a knee injury. That's a big loss, but Tom Johnson has proven he can handle the responsibilities. Applying pressure on Stafford is critical to making him uncomfortable, while forcing him into making poor decisions. He threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns last week and will need to be pressured again to keep those numbers down.

Get it done on the road

The Vikings have lost 15 of their last 17 road games and need to change that trend. It's even more important to win contests against your divisional opponents. It's going to take nine or ten wins to make the playoffs as a wild card team. Closing out games within the NFC North and the conference are very important to making this a reality.

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