Posted: 11/7/2012 1:37:49 PM
Last week I had some success backing this Lions team even though the public was on them. I think I may be doing the same this week. I took a long hard look at the matchup the last time these guys played at Ford Field and I came away with a few things.
First, the Lions were 1-2 going into that matchup and not clicking on offense (while Minnesota was 3-0). Clearly, you had a very confident Minnesota team. Mathhew Stafford didn't look comfortable and was turning the ball over at an alarming rate. While Christian Ponder was overachieving in his first 3 games. The Lions defense was playing awful (both the secondary and d-line), and their special teams unit was absolutely dreadful. Well, it didn't come as a surprise that in their first matchup in week 4, Percy Harvin returned the opening kick for a touchdown. And it also wasn't surprising that the Lions allowed a 77-yard punt return. If you strip away those plays, the Lions defense actually did a solid job against the Vikings offense. Ponder was 16/26 for 102 yards and no touchdowns. And AP was held to 102 yards on 20 carries (not bad considering AP is probably one of the most explosive backs in the league). They held Minnesota's offense to 2 field goals and no touchdowns, but were still unable to come up with the W because of the special teams mistakes & Matt Stafford's funk in the redzone (they were 1-3). Stafford was actually 30/51 for 319 yards in the game (no TDs or INTs); they just couldn't get it done in the redzone!!
The Lions team of late has been playing quite different. In their last two games against Seattle and Jacksonville, the Lions are a very impressive 7-7 in the redzone (scoring 7 touchdowns). Stafford is clearly out of his funk and I think that can be attributed to him being more willing to target receivers other than Calvin Johnson. Mikel Leshoure has also been more productive of late, and we all know a quarterback's best friend is a good running game. Their defense has also been playing much better. Against Seattle, they held one of the leagues top rushers to 105 yards (someone missed an assignment that allowed a 77 yard run for Lynch). If you take away the big play, this defense held Marshawn Lynch to 28 yards on 12 carries.
This Vikings team, on the other hand, has been heading in the opposite direction, and I attribute that mainly to opposing teams figuring out Christian Ponder's very simple passing game. The Vikings have not been able to stretch the field because their offense lacks a possesion receiver. Percy Harvin is great for the short passing game, but they have no real vertical passing game. Below are Christian Ponders numbers the last 3 weeks:
vs Arizona: 8/17 58 yards 1 TD 2 INTs
vs Tampa: 19/35 250 yards 1 TD 1 INT
at Seattle: 11/22 63 yards 0 TD 1 INT
Clearly Ponder hasn't been playing well since the first month of the year. I think its important to note that Percy Harvin, who said he is a longshot to play this week, is responsible for roughly 39% of Ponder's passing yards this season. Anyone that follows this Minnesota Vikings team knows that Harvin isn't your average receiver. He is their big play threat, and a regular part of the short passing game. The guy even runs the ball pretty effectively when AP needs a breather. Not to mention, he is obviously a threat on special teams as well (the Lions figured that out in week 4).
I think you have to take the Lions even in this back-to-back road scenario. The Lions have the better momentum and desperately need a win to get back to .500. The Vikings on the other hand, will have to rely heavily on Adrian Peterson to carry this offense on Sunday. I think Detroit plays like they did in week 4, but this time converts in the redzone. I also think their defense plays even better than they did in week 4 as they will stack the box to shut down AP and force Ponder to beat them with his arm. Without Percy Harvin, I'm sorry, but I just don't like his chances.
I know its a public bet, but I'm sticking with the team that is trending in the right direction.