Saturday, September 25, 2010

Behind Enemy Lines: Lions at Vikings

Behind Enemy Lines: Lions at Vikings

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

I once again contacted a blogger for our division foe – this week, Eric Thompson who writes the Vikings Throne blog for After the Vikings have fallen from their division throne with an 0-2 start that matches that of the Lions, they are looking to the Lions far a hand up. Will the Lions help them stand up, or kick them off the dias? Lets see what Eric thinks (My side of the Q&A Follows)

DetFan1979: There are quite a few references to Brett Favre “looking old”. My gut says it’s just Media Spin. Is he really losing skills, or is the Minnesota offense just not in sync?

ET: Well, he is really old, so if anything he’s looking his age, right? I think it’s ridiculous for anybody to expect Favre to play as well as he did last year since it was a career best in a lot of categories. He has definitely looked his age the first two games; however, check out his numbers from his first two games in 2009 compared to 2010:

2009: 37-48, 265 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
2010: 37-63, 396 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT

He has just as many completions and over 100 more yards more than he had at this point last year. The two big differences? The interceptions (obviously) and the opponents. Last year Minnesota played the Browns and the Lions to start the year–not exactly murderer’s row. (Sorry.) This year, they played the defending Super Bowl champions and a Dolphins team that looks above average at the very least. If Favre’s play continues to suffer against the porous Detroit secondary, then I think he might be on his way down. But I won’t count him out just yet.

DetFan1979: There is a lot of noise about the loss if Sidney Rice. Which receivers – if any – do you think will step up against the Lions’ weak secondary?


My long answer: I think TE Visanthe Shiancoe will still be Favre’s go-to target this week, but the rest of the receiving corps must get more involved for this offense to get on track. I’m worried that Percy Harvin’s health is worse than the Vikings are letting on–he hasn’t shown any of the explosiveness that makes him so dangerous yet. After Harvin, I think Greg Camarillo will be more and more involved as the season comes along. Bernard Berrian might be able to make a play or two, but Favre doesn’t seem to trust him. (The Vikings fans don’t trust him either.) I don’t expect anything from new acquisition Hank Baskett this week. Or the rest of the year for that matter.

DetFan1979: The Lions lead the league in sacks (tied with Green Bay at 10). How do the Vikings plan on protecting Favre?

ET: This is definitely one of the ways that the Lions could do some damage against the Vikings. Favre’s ankle appears to be just fine, but nobody’s going to confuse him withMichael Vick in the pocket. Minnesota has used more max protect packages to keep Favre upright, but I think that’s part of the reason why the passing game has been off. Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt, the Vikings tackles, need to play well–they’ve been inconsistent through the first two games. If McKinnie and Loadholt can handle the vastly improved Detroit pass rush without too much help, the Vikings should be able to put up quite a few points. If not, it might be another long day for #4.

DetFan1979: The Vikings run defense seems as stout as ever, but how is the pass defense faring? With Stafford out, how do you feel the Viking defense is going to attack the Lions to neutralize both Best and Calvin Johnson?

ET: The secondary has started the year incredibly banged up. Cedric Griffinblew out his knee in the NFC Championship game last year and hasn’t played yet this year, and rookie corner Chris Cook is still healing from a training camp injury. Yet the Vikings have only allowed 335 yards through the air; guys like Hussain Abdullah and Asher Allen have filled in well for the injured players for the most part. The defense is most definitely not the reason why the Vikings have faltered out of the gate.

I think the Vikings’ front seven will attack Hill early and often to try and force some mistakes. The Vikings don’t have anyone to match up with Megatron’s size, but I expect them to double team Johnson most of the game. The easiest way to slow Best down would be for the Vikings to get a big early lead and force Detroit to pass more. If not, the Vikings run defense is still tough to beat, but from what I’ve seen of Best so far, he could make a couple big plays.

DetFan1979: This is a road game at the Metrodome for the Lions – despite the struggles of the Vikings recently how do you feel it will play out on Sunday?

ET: The Lions haven’t beaten the Vikings in the Dome since 1997–that’s 12 in a row. Brett Favre has never lost to the Lions at home–he’s a perfect 18-0. History is definitely on Minnesota’s side. While I don’t think the Lions are are an automatic W anymore, I don’t think they’ll buck those trends just yet. I think the game will be close–Lions games always seem to make Vikings fans way too nervous. But in the end the Vikings still have more talent on each side of the ball and that will come through in the end. My prediction: Vikings 27, Lions 21.

Thanks Eric! Good insight from a Viking point of view!

Here is my side of the Q&A with Eric that you can find at Vikings Throne:

ET: It appears that Matthew Stafford won’t be available for Sunday’s game. How do you feel about Shaun Hill’s relief performance so far? What does he do well, and what does he need to do better?

DetFan1979: Shaun Hill is demonstrating why he is one hell of a backup quarterback, but a marginal starter. He was pretty good overall, but he missed his fair share of guys who were open, and pretty much folded on the last four downs where the Lions only need about 15 to 20 yards for Jason Hanson to send that game into overtime with 4 downs and over a minute and a half. That is where Stafford shines, and where Hill did not — under pressure. That being said, if he can just calm down and take some more shots down the field instead of going safe constantly and keeping it conservative it will help immensely. Remember, the Lions were pretty much dominating the Eagles until that meltdown with 90 seconds left in the half. Even then, Hill managed to make some nice throws and get them into a position where they could win it, he just couldn’t close the deal. I’ll take him as Stafford’s backup any time, even though after Stafford returns I hope not to see him again any time soon.

Short answer: Best use of a Lions 7th rounder in a long time.

ET: Jahvid Best has burst onto the scene with two excellent games to start his NFL career. What has helped him be so successful so early?

DetFan1979: Calvin Johnson and Tony Scheffler along with an overall improved Lions line. Mostly CJ and Scheff. The Eagles chose to double up Calvin while putting a DB on Sheff. This left either Best or Pettigrew on a DB and left running lanes underneath. Both players took great advantage and showed why they were drafted where they were. Don’t forget, Pettigrew had 108 yards receiving along with the monster yards/TD’s Best had.

ET: The Lions added defensive stud Ndamukong Suh and other players to shore up their defense, yet they have given up 436 yards a game the first two weeks. Why is the Lions defense still struggling so far in 2010?

DetFan1979: The other 7 guys on defense. They are referred to collectively as “the back 7″ and sometimes divided into “linebackers” and “the secondary”. Against the Eagles and Bears there wasn’t a player outside of Safety Louis Delmas that really showed they belong back there. If secondary stands for second rate, that’s still too high for what the Lions have going on back there. Aaron Berry showed some flash — but was lost for the season. Two dropped INT’s later, the Lions secondary and linebackers can’t cover well enough to take advantage of a ferocious Lions pass rush.

Any time your Dline has 8 sacks on its own and your team has one INT, you know the rest of the team back there is exotically awful (well beyond just plain awful). Quite frankly, Matt Millen left the Lions worse than an expansion franchise and there were just too many holes to field even an average team in just two years. The Lions are getting closer to be sure but they aren’t there yet.

Add in the fact that the Lions were playing their third string MLB (Levy was injured, and his backup Jordan Dizon went on IR near the end of the preseason) and an aging Julian Peterson is their best LB. Not. Good.

ET: We know the Lions have many more weapons than past years thanks to players like Best, Calvin Johnson, and Suh. Name one Lions player that people aren’t talking about that will have a big impact on Sunday’s game.

DetFan1979: One guy who could have a huge impact is Deandre Levy. A back injury kept him out of camp, and then he pulled his groin in the preseason. He is right now the Lions’ best cover LB. Levy has the size, speed, and smarts to man the middle effectively. His ability to match up on Visanthe Shiancoe will, in my opinion, be the major key to the game. If Levy can take away that hot read underneath then the Lions have a good shot to take some big hits on Favre. They had Vick feeling it last week — Favre is not going to be happy or healthy if he has to take those kinds of shots.

ET: The Lions haven’t won in the Metrodome since 1997. Give us your prediction for Sunday’s game–will this year be different?

DetFan1979: It should be a knock-down drag out affair once again for the Lions. In the end, the Lions offense without Stafford isn’t quite as aggressive so points will come difficult against the Vikings D. On defense, Favre gets rid of the ball much faster than Vick so the Lions DB’s will have to step up and take advantage of those Brett Favre throws that are miracles or INT’s. I don’t have confidence they have the talent to do so. I also am not confident the Linebackers as a unit will be able to stop the run from getting to the second level. These Lions aren’t good enough to win very many fights yet, but they sure are going to let you know you were in one.

Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)

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