One man’s prediction: The Vikings will finally get to see what the offense looks like with the new weapons at wide receiver, but the foundation is already well established. Adrian Peterson is healthy, refreshed and eager to taste game action again. The Vikings defensive line should get enough pressure on Lions QB Matthew Stafford to keep him from getting into a rhythm.
Vikings 27, Lions 24
The offseason arrival of Reggie Bush should make the Lions offense more balanced and tougher to defend. Bush is especially dangerous as a receiver. His 372 catches since 2006 are the most by any NFL running back in that span. Defenses must focus on limiting Calvin Johnson’s vertical threat, but that could leave them vulnerable to underneath routes by Bush. That puts a lot of pressure on the Vikings linebackers to make plays in space.
Ready for encore
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh became Mr. Automatic during a record-setting rookie season. Walsh set an NFL record with 10 field goals of 50-plus yards and a rookie mark for field-goal percentage (.921). He also set a team record for touchbacks with 53, which helps the defense with field position. Walsh has a new holder in rookie punter Jeff Locke so it will be interesting to see if that has any effect on his kicking.
The Lions offensive line features three new starters, including left tackle Riley Reiff, who will face Jared Allen in his first game as Jeff Backus’ successor. That’s a key matchup, but the Vikings must like their chances on the other side, too. Detroit right tackle Jason Fox has played five games (no starts) in three seasons, and right guard Larry Warford is a rookie. The combination of Brian Robison and backup Everson Griffen could be able to take advantage of that matchup to get pressure on Stafford.
MANO-A-MANO: A MATCHUP TO WATCH
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook vs. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson
The Vikings’ most experienced cornerback is still looking for his first career interception.
The lanky wideout set an NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards on 122 catches in 2012.
Who has the edge?
Johnson is a tough task for any one defender. Cook will need plenty of help from his teammates to contain the NFL’s best wide receiver.
THE BIG NUMBER
10,005 Total passing yards by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford the past two seasons, third most in the NFL in that span. The Vikings’ young cornerbacks will be busy all game.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings: The rookie first-round pick will return kickoffs and should get plenty of snaps at wide receiver. This will be our first glimpse of how offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave intends to use Patterson, who gives the offense a vertical threat that was missing last season.