First, some observations from the win over the Cleveland Browns last week:
Adrian Peterson continues to improve, which is, you know, amazing that such a thing is possible. His 64 yard touchdown run was the best run I’ve seen thus far from him: Speed, power, vision, acceleration from a dead stop. Amazing. With 198 yards from scrimmage in his first game of the season, Peterson has set the tone for a possible league MVP season.
Percy Harvin has a lot more football savvy than we should be allowed to expect from a rookie receiver, but then we had the pleasure of witnessing Randy Moss‘ rookie season, so… Throughout the pre-season and during last week’s game, Harvin has showcased his soft hands. More importantly, though, the guy has shown a fantastic field awareness, the sense of knowing where defenders and his teammates are on the field. We’ve seen him routinely catch balls in tight coverage with two or more opponents collapsing on him just as the ball is reaching him and last week. Throw in his ability to make defenders miss, and it’s clear he’s going to be an exciting and contributing player from game one. Lastly, for a player who never returned kicks it sure looks like we can expect him to return at least one kick for a score this season.
With the exception of the bull rush by Shaun Rogers that resulted in a sack of quarterback Brett Favre, John Sullivan did a pretty good job in his debut as a starting center.
Phil Loadholt, on the other hand, had a pretty brutal game. While he did a generally good job in pass protection, he missed on countless block in the run game. He’s a rookie. It was his first game. Let’s hope he improves over the course of the season. Even so, he’s an upgrade over Ryan Cook.
The Vikings defense looks strong again, even with Jared Allen being shut down last week. Kevin Williams‘ sack was something to behold, absolutely blowing by his blocker to nail Brady Quinn.
The special teams have definitely improved despite giving up a return for a touchdown by Joshua Cribbs. The coverage units did a great job of containing Cribbs but for that one return. I think you gotta let that return slide because Cribbs will have his returns, he’s one of the best in the league. With Percy Harvin returning kicks and Darius Reynaud returning punts, the Vikings will greatly improve their average starting position on offensive drives; and it sure looks like we can expect a few kick returns for touchdowns this year.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
It is, of course, easy to overlook the winless Lions but they always play us close. They did last year and there’s no reason to believe they can’t do that again this year.
Seeing how Drew Brees blew them up last week with six touchdown passes, expect Farve to more than he did last week. It is unlikely he’ll have to throw a lot more but with such a soft defense, he’ll certainly throw more than he did against the Browns.
It’s hardly worth saying because it is practically obvious, but expect Adrian Peterson to have another 100+ yard game.
The two primary things the Vikings need to worry about are 1) Calvin Johnson and 2) rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. Ultimately, they need to blanket Johnson, and put pressure on Stafford to force him to make poor decisions.
The Lions are not at all the same team they were last year; new GM, new head coach, and 60% new players, so you can’t assume anything…except, perhaps, that at this early point in the season, they are a team that is still trying to figure out how to play together.
This game should be a blowout for the Vikings but considering the history of the rivalry, I won’t got there. The Vikings will win, though.