This week’s matchup pits the Vikings against a Detroit Lions team that has a competent quarterback in Jon Kitna, this year’s number one pick Calvin Johnson, a proven big-play wide receiver in Roy Williams, and no-slouches-themselves receivers Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald, and pass-first offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Vikings Defense vs. Lions Offense
The Lions like to employ four- and five-receiver sets.
We’re are going to find out how just much the Vikings’ pass defense has improved, particularly our pass rush.
Cornerbacks Marcus McCauley and Charles Gorden look to see a lot of action and will probably be targeted by Kita and company because of their inexperience.
The Lions rushing attack will feature Tatum Bell because both Kevin Jones and T.J. Duckett are injured. And though Bell ran for 87 yards against the Raiders last week, don’t expect a repeat performance against the Vikings. The Vikings run defense is better and Martz will prefer to pass against the Vikings anyway.
For the Vikings to be successful against the Lions’ offense they’ll need to shut down the run, done, and then, ideally, bring enough pressure with the front four that they make Kitna uncomfortable in the pocket.
The nice thing about four- and five-receiver sets is that there are fewer people to pass block on the line. That means no double-teaming the Williamses, leaving Udeze, Edwards, Scott and Robison to bring pressure off the edge. I’d expect to see a lot of rookie Brian Robison at left end if Udeze can’t bring sufficient pressure. Look for Spencer Johnson to get a lot of work, as well.
The cornerbacks will have to be physical at the line by jamming and rerouting their receivers to disrupt the quick passes and allow the D-line enough time to get to Kitna. Ideally, this would allow Leslie Fraizer the freedom to use the linebackers primarily in coverage rather than blitzing.
Kitna is definitely rattleable. Last week he threw two picks and last year he had 22 interceptions against 21 touchdowns. If the Vikes can get to Kitna, there might be some scoring opportunities on picks. If Kitna goes down, the Lions are in serious trouble because, with backup QB Dan Orlovsky injured, they’d have to rely on third string quarterback, former Viking, J.T. O’Sullivan.
Vikings Offense vs. Lions Defense
The Vikings will want to play ball control offense by running the ball as much as they can and creating long, time-consuming drives to keep the Lions offense off the field. In a game they should have won, they Raiders had success running against Detroit, with LaMont Jordon gaining 70 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries for a 4.6 yard average.
It will help the Vikings cause a great deal if Chester Taylor is healthy enough to play to keep the Lions guessing as to who will get the rock. If Taylor’s healthy, I’d expect to see a lot of him and Adrian Peterson in the backfield at the same time.
If the Lions are successful against the run, then obviously we’ll need Tarvaris Jackson to make them pay with the passing game. He will have an additional weapon at his disposal this week, with receiver Robert Ferguson expected to be active this week.
I hate to say it, but keeping the Lions honest might depend on Jackson connecting deep with Troy Williamson.
Regardless, the Lions have a horrible record against us so they’ve got to prove to me that this group is different from any other Lions team we’ve face. I expect the Vikings to win a close one.