A lot has changed since the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings last faced each other. The Vikings win sent them to 3-1 while the Lions fell to 1-3. Just six weeks later, the Vikings sit at 5-4 while the Lions are at 4-4 and looking to jump the Vikes in the standings.
I caught up with Dan Zinski, Vikings blogger and editor at The Viking Age, for a quick Q&A ahead of this week’s rematch.
1. The Lions and Vikings have seemed to go in opposite directions since they last met, what has been the difference for the Vikings in losing three of their last four?
Dan Zinski: The defense has gone in the tank. I think that’s the big thing. The passing offense has been a topic of discussion too but that area of their game was never great even when they were winning. The key for them was the defense making life easier for the offense. But stuff has gone downhill defensively. I think teams have been exploiting their weaknesses more effectively, mainly using play action and counter plays and screens to work over their defensive line and linebackers. Having a really aggressive downhill sort of defense is great until teams start using that against you. And then your linebackers have to play more disciplined and our linebackers don’t do a good job in that area. It also didn’t help having Chris Cook get injured. Him being out will be a major problem against Calvin Johnson. The way the run defense has fallen apart is really the most alarming thing though. They can’t tackle anyone right now.
2. I have read that the Vikings will change their approach to the passing game this week? How do you think they should go about it?
DZ: This is a big question. Because honestly, I’m not sure there’s much they can do. I think what we’re finding out more than anything is how limited Christian Ponder is as a passer. It’s okay to say “Let’s open up the playbook” but the QB has to be capable of making the throws. He also has to learn how to handle the rush better. He just doesn’t feel the rush well at all. And then his mechanics speed up and he gets all out of whack. I don’t know what schematic tweaks you can really make to help that. They were already making it as easy on him as possible by trying to feature Percy Harvin and the short passing game. How can they make it even easier? I wish them luck. Cause I don’t have an answer.
3. Adrian Peterson has been fantastic while Christian Ponder has struggled, any frustration coming from AP?
DZ: Peterson will never show frustration. He’s not that kind of guy. He doesn’t throw tantrums on the sideline like Percy Harvin. He always says the right things. He takes his frustrations out on the other team. Maybe that will change if things keep going the way they’re going. At some point I imagine even an even-keeled guy like Peterson will boil over. But my guess is that will happen behind closed doors if it happens.
4. How are Vikings fans approaching this game after previously winning in Detroit?
DZ: Honestly, I don’t think fans even realize who the opponent is this week. I think everyone’s still shellshocked from how fast things fell apart. Everyone’s still in anger mode over the way the passing game and defense have crumbled. We’re too busy ripping the QB, the coaches, the defense, the receivers. It could be the Packers this week and I don’t think it would matter. It’s just anger at the Vikings right now.
5. What is your prediction for the game?
DZ: Even with all the struggles, I think the Vikes have a decent shot in this game. They had a solid plan against Detroit last time. They played pretty well. I think they have a comfort level in that gameplan especially defensively. Plus it’s at home. So it wouldn’t shock me to see the Vikes pull this out. Problem is, Percy Harvin might not play. That changes things a lot. If Percy’s not in there, then it’s game over. Detroit will roll. So it’s almost got to be a split prediction. I’ll say Vikings 24-21 with Percy, Lions 24-10 without Percy.