Can the Detroit Lions Take Advantage of the Vikings Coaching Shake Up?
The Vikings offense is in a state of flux. Norv Turner quit his job this week because in his words, “It wasn’t working.” He’s not wrong but if Vikings fans are thinking that their new offensive coordinator is going to fix everything this week, I’ve got a few stats for them: 32nd and 26th are the rankings of the last two offenses that Pat Schurmur actually called plays for. That would be the 2009 and 2010 St. Louis Rams. He was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia but head coach Chip Kelly was the offensive play caller. The Vikings are a wounded monster this week, coming off two straight losses after a 5-0 start. They’ve got a stifling defense, the best in the NFL this year when healthy. Their offense has been just as bad as their defense has been good.
How Bad has the Vikings Defense Really Been?
In yards per game, yards per play, and rushing yards per game the Vikings rank 31st. The Vikings are 29th in passing yards, 24th in sacks allowed, and 25th in QB hits allowed. The Vikings are 32nd in yards per run and 20th in yards per pass, so despite their amazing defense they’re 24th in time of possession. Going a bit deeper, the Vikings are 26th in drive success rate (possessions that result in a first down or touchdown) 28th in points per drive, and 31st yards per drive. That is how awful the Vikings offense has been. However this week they face the Lions defense.
How Badly do the Lions Need to Win this Game?
The Lions desperately need to win this game. A loss this week puts the Lions at 4-6, and two games back from the Vikings for the division title. The Vikings would also have the tie breaker advantage over the Lions. There are currently three teams between the Lions and a wildcard spot, with four more that could potentially pull ahead with a Lions loss. A loss could put the team seven spots out of the playoffs, with a schedule containing three of the teams that would be between them and a wildcard: two division champions, the Bears, and the Jaguars. The Lions would likely need to win out after their bye week to get into the playoffs at 10-6.
The Lions have played up or down to their competition this season. Maddeningly unable to execute against poor teams, the Lions have been able to perform against top teams though. Of course the Lions have been packing entire games of production into one half or even one quarter, making their inconsistency even less palatable to fans. The Lions have been a mediocre team, and their 4-4 record reflects exactly what they are up to this point. With a win this week, the Lions would put themselves in a position to be at most one game back in both races to the playoffs. That makes this game against the Vikings a must win.
What Could Stop the Lions from Winning?
The Lions are likely missing Riley Rieff, an injury that could not have come at a worse time. The Vikings have more sacks than any team left on the Lions schedule other than the Bears. The Lions have given up the seventh most sacks in the NFL. Even with their right tackle playing at a pro bowl level they have been having trouble keeping Stafford upright. While the Lions may get a lot of their injury list back on the field after the bye, they are still lacking in many positions. Darius Slay looks like he will play, but linebackers DeAndre Levy and Jon Bostic will not return. Brandon Pettigrew’s effect on the running game will also not be present on Sunday.
Why do the Lions Have a Chance?
The Vikings offensive line is in even worse shape than the Lions’. If ever there was an opportunity for Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor to get their season back on track, this is it. Sam Bradford is not a quarterback that plays well while under pressure. Neither Jerrick McKinnon or Matt Asiata are players that can get yardage without blocking. Pat Schurmur does not have a history of wringing the most he can out of his players. The Lions could very easily win this game with ten points scored, despite their defensive woes. The Vikings offense is bad enough to have difficulty against even the Lions defense.
Lions 10 vs Vikings 14
I do not believe the Lions are going to pull this one out. After watching the Rams and Bears offenses move the ball at will, I can not put my faith in Terrell Austin’s defense. The Lions have about the most predictable running game in the league, which puts Stafford in a bad spot. The silver lining to a Lions loss this week is that you guys will get to read the sweet set of coaching candidate articles I have been working on.