I'm not a big "must-win" guy, unless it's actually a, you know, must-win situation. But if the Vikings let Detroit win at the Metrodome for the first time since 1997 ... ooh, baby, it's gonna get so ugly, Brett Favre may need six guys to retrieve him from Hattiesburg after the bye.
The Lions are a better team. No doubt about it. But after watching a replay of their 35-32 loss to the Eagles, I came away thinking Adrian Peterson can challenge his NFL-record 296 yards rushing. Assuming he holds on to the ball, of course. Seven of his 20 career fumbles and five of his 13 lost fumbles have come against the Leos.
In short, the Lions' linebackers were A-W-F-U-L. Outside linebacker Zack Follett is a special teamer, at best. And the middle linebacker, backup Landon Johnson, was AWOL on runs up the middle.
There is some hope for Lions fans (I suppose) because it appears starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy will return from his groin injury. The 2009 third-round draft pick missed the first two games, but returned to practice last week.
The Lions definitely have a much-improved defensive line with tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams, and right end Kyle Vanden Bosch. But the back seven is so bad or beat up, it doesn't matter.
Schwartz said the defensive line is "keeping us in games." In order to start winning some games, Levy has to return and play well.
"We need to get him back," Schwartz said. "He's a guy we drafted last year and thought an awful lot of. He played some outside linebacker for us early in the season. And then late in the season, when Larry Foote was injured, he went in and played the middle linebacker position, which is what we drafted him to do, and he was everything we wanted from our middle linebacker. He's got good size, he's really tough, he's smart, he's got good speed, he's multi-dimensional. He's good against the run. He's good against the pass.
"He was the quarterback of our defense. He's nursing a groin injury he got late in the preseason. We got him on the practice field last week. Hopefully, he can continue there. When you talk about good young players, the last couple years in the draft, we drafted [safety] Louis Delmas in our back end, we drafted a player like Levy at linebacker and we drafted Ndamukong Suh [at defensive tackle]. We have good, young players. We need to get them on the field and playing together. DeAndre has been missed the first two weeks. We need to get him back on the field."
My prediction: Vikings 21-10. Peterson runs for about 175.
We just had Vanden Bosch on a conference call. He said the Lions' history doesn't matter. He said they feel like "this is a new era" for Lions football. I'd believe that if I hadn't heard it about 20 times over the past 20 years.