Here are five things to watch during today’s game between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings that could help tell the story when this one is in the books.
1. Return yardage
The Vikings beat the Lions earlier this year on the strength of their return game (or more likely, the weakness of the Lion’s kick coverage). In fact, they only had 41 more yards of total offense than return yardage and didn’t score an offensive touchdown. The Vikings offense has struggled of late but the Vikings could get a boost if their return teams give the offense good field position or even some points. The Vikings will be without Percy Harvin due to injury. That combined with the Lions’ improved special teams units could make all the difference from the first meeting.
2. Passing Yards
Christian Ponder hasn’t passed for even 70 yards in two of his last three games. Adrian Peterson has been effective but Ponder’s inability to get the ball down the field has kept the Vikings offense in neutral. If the Lions can keep the Vikings one dimensional on offense, they stand a good chance of leaving Minneapolis with a second-straight win. With the Lions new-found running game, a big day through the air for Matthew Stafford could mean a big all-around day for the Lions offense.
The Lions and Vikings each have very good kickers but neither team should be terribly excited to see their kicker take the field. Settling for field goals did the Lions in in their week four loss to the Vikings. Likewise, the Vikings can’t afford to not score touchdowns with their offense struggling the way it has.
4. The new trend?
The Lions led at the half last week for the first time all season. Can they turn that into a new trend or will they put themselves in another hole? The Lions were able to mount a comeback on the Vikings in Minneapolis last year but don’t want to have to go that route again. The halftime score will tell a lot.
5. Pass Rush
The Lions have been maddeningly inconsistent in rushing the passer this year. If they can harass Christian Ponder the way they harassed Michael Vick last month, the defense should be able to do some very good things, including forcing Ponder into some ill-advised throws.