One man's prediction: It's a shame Christian Ponder and the defense squandered Adrian Peterson's masterful performance last week in Seattle. With Percy Harvin's left ankle likely keeping him sidelined today, Peterson will need to deliver even more. Fortunately, the All-Pro running back seems up to the challenge. Vikings 24, Lions 23
The efficiency and balance of Detroit's offense has spiked over the past month. In their current two-game winning streak, the Lions have scored touchdowns on eight consecutive trips into the red zone and have converted 20 of 28 third downs. In back-to-back wins over Seattle and Jacksonville, quarterback Matthew Stafford has gone 23-for-27 for 270 yards and two TDs on third downs. Eighteen of those completions have moved the chains. Stafford, once again, seems to be finding his groove.
In Week 4, the Vikings limited Detroit to a season-low 55 rushing yards, with Mikel Leshoure gaining just 26 yards on 13 carries. Last week? The Lions piled up a season-high 149 rushing yards, with Leshoure (70 yards, three TDs) and Joique Bell (71 yards, one TD) running with authority. The Lions have energized their ground game by finding a unique use for first-round pick Riley Reiff. The rookie from Iowa has played 42 snaps the past two games, most of them as a sixth lineman, serving essentially as a blocking tight end.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder needs to deliver in the passing game to keep what promises to be an irritable home crowd from coming unglued early. To help that cause, the Vikings coaching staff took an in-depth look at many of the plays and schemes this week and insist they made tweaks to restore the offense's rhythm. "We're hoping for immediate results," coordinator Bill Musgrave said. Peterson remains the workhorse. But with Harvin likely to sit, tight end Kyle Rudolph and receiver Jerome Simpson will be needed more than ever.
186 Return yards for the Vikings in their 20-13 win in Detroit. The Vikings almost had as many return yards as they had total offense (227).
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: With only two catches for 17 yards the past three games, Rudolph's disappearing act can't continue. Coach Leslie Frazier has vowed this week to provide the big tight end greater involvement. They'll need it with Percy Harvin ailing.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson vs. Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson
Tied for the NFL lead with four 100-yard games. Has 48 catches, 767 yards and one TD.
About Jefferson (left)
Made first Vikings start in Seattle. Recorded three tackles but was beaten for a 6-yard Golden Tate TD catch.
Johnson. Jefferson will need plenty of safety help when he's one-on-one with Johnson. He also won't be the only DB to cover the Lions star. The Vikings' Week 4 game plan held Johnson to five catches for 54 yards. But Johnson also drew 71 penalty yards.