January 08, 2012

Week 14: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions


Vegas Line: Vikings + 10

Rob’s Line: Vikings + 7.5

Let’s try something here. You miss a game - you’re busy or you just plain didn’t fancy it. You look at the scoreline a little later (or the next day in some cases here in London). In the next few seconds how many of you try to assume what a particular player’s stats were? Let’s assume that the game we missed was last week’s Saints/Lions matchup.
You see a 31-17 scoreline in favour of the Saints…hmmm, I suppose Matthew Stafford may have thrown for something between 220 and 240 yards, so the thought goes. That’s the kind of thing I’m not averse to doing before reading what actually happened. So, I began reading the recap…Stafford throws for 408 yards. Kinda eye popping number that for a team that scored 17 points.
You may be wondering what that was all about. Well, here’s my theory: Stafford puts up big yardage and that could bode well for this week against a Vikings pass defense ranked 26th. The Lions need to win this one desperately as they’re bang in the middle of the wildcard race (despite losing three of their last four), but a much bigger intangible awaits those ready to lump on Detroit this week and it far outweighs Stafford’s ability to light up the stats column. That one thing is his team’s indiscipline. Hot on the heels of Ndamukong Suh’s two game suspension following his Thanksgiving Day kick against the Packers came a performance in New Orleans almost in homage to Suh.
Detroit committed 11 penalties for 107 yards with the low point surely being tight end Brandon Pettigrew’s shove of an official. A whole football field plus a Cam Newton scramble of yards given up. Back to my theory…the bottom line right now is that the Lions are not to be trusted. In addition, aside from their amazing second half comeback against Carolina three weeks ago, they’ve lost five of their last six. And we can have Minnesota plus ten points?
Then comes the caveat. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did return to practice on Thursday, but there’s no guarantee of him playing Sunday. Coach Leslie Frazier would only give us that Peterson’s “very close” to coming back. Should he not, Toby Gerhart will deputise once more and he had a solid outing last week against Denver, rushing for 91 yards on 21 carries. The Lions only rank 22nd against the run and they’re weaker without Suh at defensive tackle so Gerhart could have another nice outing.
As a footnote to Peterson, I feel as though I must add something from an ESPN source: Peterson signed the richest contract for a running back in league history in the offseason and at 2-10 the Vikings have little to play for. So it would make sense that the team would be extra cautious with their prized player.
It may look as though I’m writing off the Lions here, but I fully expect them to have no little success through the air. They’ll hope that running back Kevin Smith is healthy, but his status is uncertain due to an ankle injury picked up last week. Receiver Calvin Johnson hasn’t had a 100 yard game for five weeks now, but that could change this week and he did score two touchdowns against the Vikings in their first meeting in Week 3.
In Minnesota, it’s not just Peterson whom the team have an injury doubt over. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder is also questionable after being bothered by a hip injury all week that’s limited his mobility. He returned to practice on Friday though and while the Vikings aren’t saying anything as early as Saturday morning, I suspect he’ll start. Ponder last week broke the franchise record for most yards passing in a game by a rookie quarterback when he threw for 381 yards in the 35-32 loss to the Broncos and he faces a Detroit secondary on Sunday likely to be as banged up as last week what with cornerback Chris Houston and safety Louis Delmas both not having practiced all week.
I like Minnesota a lot here and believe the line only to be so high due to Peterson’s status. I think that ten points is a huge ask for the Lions to cover so am going nowhere near them. It’s Minnesota all day and the juicy start on offer.


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