Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: DJC Writer Predictions

Sep 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of the line of scrimmage in the first half in a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of the line of scrimmage in the first half in a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Jock City writers make their predictions for the Detroit Lions’ week nine road game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Metrodome was a house of horrors for the Detroit Lions over the years. No Lions fan was sad to see that place demolished but it doesn’t appear the Vikings have given up much, if any, home field advantage in their move to the shiny new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Can the Lions get the U.S. Bank Stadium era of road games against the Vikings off to a good start? Here is what the Detroit Jock City staff sees for the game ahead.

Matt Pelc (4-4) – What a difference a couple weeks for the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings. Led by a strong defense and a just-good-enough offense led by a backup quarterback and running backs, the Vikings were starting 5-0. Many thought the Vikings were the team to beat in the division heading into this year, but after two straight road losses, this doesn’t look so certain.

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Which brings in the Detroit Lions and our favorite pastime as fans, “what if.” What if they beat Tennessee, what if they beat Chicago, what if they didn’t look so terrible in Houston after a three-game winning streak? If they had won all those games, they’d be in first place since Green Bay hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire this year either. (Of course, this being the Lions, they could have also lost all their wins this year too). Perhaps their only clear path to the postseason is to win the division, which is possible, but it’s been a very long time since we’ve called the Lions “division champs.”

Minnesota is in disarray, will have a new defensive coordinator, and have a ton of injuries, but their defense is still likely the best Matthew Stafford and the Lions have faced, one in which they have struggled mightily with last season. The Vikings have yet to lose a game in their new stadium, something that, despite everything going against them, will likely continue. Can the Lions win? Of course, but it’s more likely we see them beat Minnesota on Thanksgiving than in this game. Vikings 20, Lions 17

Erik Schlitt (3-5) – Changing an offensive coordinator mid-season can be a step in the right direction, but it usually takes longer than five days to adjust. The Vikings game plan should be simplified as a result. Realistically, they could call “tight end over the middle” half the time and Kyle Rudolph could have great success (side note: if my draft crush, tight end David Morgan, makes his first career reception against us, that audible weeping you hear, will be me). But, their offensive line is not playing well and I think it sets up well for Devin Taylor and Kerry Hyder to cause some disruption up front.

The key for the Lions offense will be to slowing down the Vikings pass rush. Their aggressiveness does open up some room behind them, and with linebacker Eric Kendricks ruled out, this could be a career day for Theo Riddick. If the Lions can put together a full 60 minutes of solid football, they have a real shot in this one.

Unfortunately, the Lions haven’t played well on the road, and I’m not confident in several recent coaches decisions, which is why I think the Lions come up just short in a low scoring game. Vikings 17, Lions 14

Colton Wesley (3-5) – With Adrian Peterson still out and backup Jerrick McKinnon dealing with an ankle injury, the Vikings will be depending on Sam Bradford to make it work with a different offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, who was Bradford’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia a year ago. Mid-season offensive coordinator changes often yield unpredictable results, so we’ll see how it goes. The Lions defense will be much more healthy than last week with the return of Darius Slay and another week of recovery for Ezekial Ansah, so perhaps the inconsistent Detroit pass rush can make the most of a good matchup with a subpar Vikings offensive line and get pressure on Bradford.

The defense is still very much the backbone of the Vikings, although they will be without a couple of key players in Sharrif Floyd and Eric Kendricks. The Lions will be unlikely to have much success between the tackles against a stout Minnesota front, so Matthew Stafford will need to be especially careful against an opportunistic Vikings secondary, which will be tested by a deep Lions pass-catching corps.

After last week’s ugly loss to Chicago, I initially thought that the Vikings would be poised for a bounce-back week against Detroit. But when offensive coordinator Norv Turner suddenly resigned, it became pretty apparent that there are some serious systemic issues with the Minnesota offense, issues that go beyond a poor offensive line. It seems unlikely that those problems will be resolved in only a few days, even if the Vikings are facing a porous Lions defense.

I expect a close game, probably decided by field position and maybe one crucial turnover. This game means a lot in the division race, as the Lions can break the NFC North race wide open and clear .500 at the bye week with a win. I think the Vikings have too many problems on offense for them to be able to smoothly transition from Turner to Shurmur in one week and the Lions do just enough on offense to win. Lions win, 24-20.

Zac Snyder (4-4) – If you watched the Vikings lose to the Bears on Monday Night Football last week you saw them at their very worst. If they play like that again, the Lions could leave Minneapolis with a win. The Vikings offensive line is a mess but can the Lions defensive line be expected to dominate? They haven’t instilled any confidence so far this season and Ziggy Ansah has been nearly invisible since his return from injury. The Lions’ chances hinge on their defense’s ability to make some big plays. Vikings 23, Lions 17

Matt Snyder (4-4) – The Lions head north of the wall to take on a division-leading Vikings team that has shown itself to be beatable. The Big questions are if the Lions offense will be able to solve the Vikings’ defense and if the Vikings’ offensive coaching shakeup will stall their offense in the short term. Vikings 20, Lions 13.

Next: Lions at Vikings Game Preview

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