Opponent Preview 2009 – Week Two: Detroit Lions

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Leading up to the beginning of the NFL Season, I’ll start looking at the Vikings upcoming opponents for the year, offering both a Good, Bad, and the Ugly scenario for each opponent. Consider it a level headed opponent preview done in an effort to not pump any sunshine to the Viking reader base and to hopefully prepare your expectations for reality. Today, we continue with their week two opponent, the revamped Detroit Lions …

The Good: The good thing about the Lions in 2009 is that they are not the Lions of 2008. Having won zero games in 2008 (but successfully losing all 16 of them!), they did a complete fire sale on their roster as soon as Jim Schwartz was brought in as new head coach. They cut some of the worst roster fat around (Leigh Bodden, Mike Furrey, Dwight Smith, etc.) and started adding some new pieces that, if not concrete starters, instantly add more and deeper talent to their roster than they’ve probably had in years, including running back Maurice Morris, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, defensive tackle Grady Jackson and linebacker Larry Foote. Holy buckets, that’s all of a sudden a different team that’s not use to losing 16 games in a season.

In addition to the free agency overhaul, the team added some complementary pieces in the draft with quarterback Mathew Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew, and shifty WR Derrick Williams. If anything, these draft picks scream talent potential which isn’t something the Lions have had anywhere on their roster in years. Combine these players with young bucks Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith and the Lions have a nice little roster that Schwartz and new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan (remember him?) can build around.

The Bad: While having loads of potential on a team is a plus (Same opening line from the Browns preview!), facing a coaching change and perennial losing may take its toll. Without a doubt, the Lions will be more talented than 2008, but these are still relative terms when you’re discussing a 16 loss team. Jim Schwartz still needs to instill a sense of winning and pride within this organization, which will take time, and there are plenty of holes on this roster that will take years to solidify. Most notably, their offensive line is riddled with players that have mixed history of success and failure or just glaring needs, they still have no true receivers behind Johnson that demand attention, or will prevent a double team on him, their defensive line won’t pressure anyone, and their safety position has as much punch as a watered down Hi-C drink in the summer time. Upgrades are desperately needed in several areas, but won’t be found in 2009.

In addition, the Vikings find themselves in a favorable situation again, heading to Detroit in week two of the season when the Lions will still be adjusting to their new assignments and coaching staff, as well as possibly breaking in a new rookie quarterback. While Jim Schwartz became popular for his attacking defensive mindset in Tennessee, he won’t have the tools in Detroit to shoot out of the gate and stop the offensive attack that the Vikings will still be experimenting with. Adrian Peterson will most likely have a big day, and Percy Harvin could have a breakthrough game in his second professional appearance.

The Ugly: The ugly is exactly what Detroit fans should probably expect in week two, but not for the entire year. It’s easy to dump on the Lions as a perennially horrible team, but things are changing in Detroit. And in 2009, they will surprise some teams, maybe even the Vikings. Considering that this is a division game, records and team talent (or lack thereof) goes out the window when you are trying to predict it. As long as either team has a potential home run threat on the roster, which both teams do, it should be pretty evenly matched.

With that in mind, the ugly in this game could go either way. If the Vikings are clicking, Peterson has a big day, the defense causes havoc for whatever Detroit QB is behind center, and Harvin has his coming out party, expect ugly things for Detroit. However, if the Vikings come out lackadaisical and disinterested in the Lions, the Lions may be able to squeak out a win. When it’s all said and done though, much like in Cleveland, the deficiencies in Detroit will be too much for them to overcome unless the magically catch lightning in a bottle. Twice. But it won’t be happening this early in the season with Peterson in great shape.

Expect a Vikings win, but not a blowout, and be prepared to face a much more challenging Lions team later in the season. For now, pencil the Vikings in a 2-0 with a 21-17 win.

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2 Responses to “Opponent Preview 2009 – Week Two: Detroit Lions”

  1. matt hinz says:

    Why do the Lions always put up such a fight against the Vikings? Seems like we have to rely on a blocked PAT, a resurrection of a QB (Jackson) or a few bad calls go against Detroit to beat them. I agree this game will be closer than it should and if they lose Brad Childress will be hearing the boo birds realy early in the season at home. His predictive playcalling and conservative offense allows teams like Detroit to stay in the game. Personal wise they are completely overmatched, but why would Childress exploit their weakness in the secondary? It just wouldn’t make any sense now would it!! A loss like this could really set the tone for an up and down season in my opinion.

  2. Aaron says:

    I agree. I chalk their tough play up to the old division rivalry issue, but on paper, the Lions are completely overmatched, still. But I always am telling myself not to doubt this team. They’ve got some damn good pieces in place and aren’t going to be pushovers for much longer.

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