Tail-tucked Lions in our den
At the onset of the 2009 campaign, when looking over both the Detroit Lions' roster & schedule, I believed them a four-win team. No longer. Not after their Week 8, 17-10 home loss to a St. Louis Rams bunch that came to Motown with a 17-game losing streak. The Lions, in brief, have won two damn games in the last two years. Number three in that stretch -- or number two this season -- ain't'a commin' on Sunday.
When the Vikings (7-1) played in Detroit for Week 2, the Purple actually trailed 10-7 at half before ultimately rolling to a 27-13 victory. Favre was highly economic in that effort, completing 23 of 27 passes, and tossing for two scores; A.P. added 92 ground yards and a touchdown, while Chad Greenway had two picks coupled with a fumble recovery, four tackles, and two passes defended.
The reason for looking back is to simply recognize that two months ago, there seemed hope for the Lions. #1 pick Matthew Stafford appeared surprising cozy behind center despite appearing in just his second NFL game, running back Kevin Smith rushed for what remains the second-highest total vs. a stout Vikings' run defense (83 yards; Steven Jackson accrued 84 in Week 5), and stud wideout Megatron Johnson had five catches and found the end zone. Said offense youth meshed seemingly well (for a half) with a slew of veterans that Detroit assembled in the offseason.
But come Week 10 -- the Lions remain in the NFL scrap heap, tied with four others squads for the league's worst record. Traversing to Viking confines, with our crew coming off a bye, isn't a recipe for Lion purr.
Not that some history isn't in their mien. While the Vikings haven't lost at home to Detroit since 1997, eight of our 11 home victories over the Lions in that window have come by 10 points or fewer; six of those wins have come by no more than a touchdown's reach for a Detroit bunch that hasn't made the playoffs since '99.
That's not to portend an upset for our 16.5 point favorites, rather it's only to slightly suggest that past portends a lil' funkiness on Sunday. We will win -- it just may not be with the aplomb befitting a 7-1 team that's set to host three consecutive home games against three teams with losing records. That's, of course, just my own vibe.
The numbers, meanwhile, dictate pain. Detroit is allowing nearly 30 points per game (worst in the NFC), is playing sans linebacker Ernie Sims and both their pass & run units ranks 17th or worse in the league. In addition, the mirrored side of the rock finds their offensive pass & run units ranking 20th or worse in the NFL. With the Vikings' inversely sporting both the league's #2 scoring offense (30.5 per), the NFL's #2 ranked passer (Favre, 106 rating), and Adrian Peterson's 98 yard average vs. Detroit in five career contests -- this baby's in the bag. It just may prove closer than most think. When all the sheep roll in one direction, sometimes the wise sheppard finds a hint of sobriety.
Look for the Lions to keep things respectable with Johnson, Smith and underrated tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a half (a la Week 2) before Matt Stafford throws a few picks (he chucked up five last week) and Detroit finds a few other ways to beat themselves. Maybe a Percy Harvin kickoff return or an A.P. 65-yard burst will add the closing slew before Favre dons a ballcap and T-Jack takes some fourth quarter snaps. This win may not come with all the trimmings, but rest assured, it will come.
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