Archive for the Detroit Lions Category

Detroit Lions Leading Minnesota Vikings 10-0 in 2nd Quarter

Wow. Consider me shocked.

A few people (including Peter King) were predicting that the Lions could beat the Vikings this weekend and snap their 18-game losing streak. After watching Adrian Peterson carve up the Browns in the second half last week, and Drew Brees throw for 6 TDs against the Lions, I wasn’t buying it.

So far, so good for Detroit.

Rookie QB Matt Stafford just threw a TD pass to Calvin Johnson, and the Lions lead 10-0 with about 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.

Stay tuned…

Update: The Vikings, surprise surprise, scored on their next possession, a 1-yard TD pass from Brett Favre to Visanthe Shiancoe.  10-7 Lions.

Update: I officially jinxed the Lions. Adrian Peterson just treated the Lions D like they were the Browns and rumbled for a 27-yard TD. 17-10 Vikings. Sorry Detroit.

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NFL Week 2 Preview | Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Matt and Zac Snyder of Bleacher Report and break down this week’s Detroit Lions football match-up.

When the Lions have the ball…

Detroit’s passing attack vs. Minnesota’s defensive backs

Zac says: Brady Quinn managed to throw for over 200 yards with a nice completion percentage against the Vikings secondary last week. If Matthew Stafford can avoid interception, he may have an opportunity to find some success. The offense will be aided by a home crowd eager to see their No. 1 overall draft pick succeed.

Calvin Johnson always has the potential for a huge day, but will need help from the other receivers to avoid being double-teamed. The young offense may still struggle at times, especially through the air. Advantage: Even

Matt says:
Calvin Johnson creates an advantage just by being on the field—he has the ability to get to the end zone any time he touches the ball.

Matthew Stafford needs to understand that his strong arm can’t squeeze the ball into coverage—he needs to use his powers for good, not evil. Rookies are allowed to make mistakes, but they must learn from them and show improvement each week. The Detroit offensive line must keep Jared Allen from getting to Stafford, or the rookie will continue to throw interceptions (and take a beating). Advantage: Lions

Detroit’s running game vs. Minnesota’s front seven

Zac says: Kevin Smith averaged a disappointing 1.3 yard per carry against the Saints. That will need to pick up for the Lions to have success offensively. Kevin and Pat Williams present the most formidable defensive tackle tandem in the league, a huge test for the interior of any offensive line. I figure the Lions can muster a few bright spots in the running game, but not enough. Advantage: Vikings

Matt says: I expected a lot more from the Lions’ running game last week against the Saints defense. It will be difficult to improve much this week against an even better Minnesota defense. Advantage: Vikings

When the Vikings have the ball…

Minnesota’s passing attack vs. Detroit’s defensive backs

Zac says: As long as Adrian Peterson is running the ball for the Vikings, their air attack will be nothing but a change of pace to keep defenses honest. Brett Favre attempted just 21 passes for 110 yards in week 1. Philip Buchanon will be back in the line-up to help bolster the Detroit secondary. Percy Harvin has big play potential and will need to be kept in check. I can’t call a clear advantage in this match-up because the Vikings won’t need to test the Lions through the air. Advantage: Even

Matt says: While it’s true that the Vikings will not need to rely on the passing game to win, they’ll still be able to have success through the air. Brett Favre is no stranger to the Detroit Lions, and unfortunately, the secondary did not improve while he was away from the division. Advantage: Vikings

Minnesota’s running game vs. Detroit’s front seven

Zac says: The Lions continue to lack depth and talent on the defensive line. The strong linebacker corps will not be able to have kind of impact they are capable of until the D-line can hold their own. Adrian Peterson’s 180 yards and three touchdowns against the Browns may be duplicated in Week Two. Advantage: Vikings

Matt says: Adrian Peterson is really, really good. The Lions run defense is really, really bad. Advantage: Vikings

Bottom line…

Zac says: I can’t find the courage to pick the Lions to win until they show they can. The only way the Lions pull this one out is if Adrian Peterson catches another case of fumblitis and Brett Favre throws a couple of his wild throws right at the Lions. As long as Favre is content to be a “manage the game” type of quarterback and plays within his aged abilities, the Vikings have nothing to fear. Minnesota 28, Detroit 21

Matt says: I’m a homer, but even I can’t take the Lions in this contest. Too much Adrian Peterson, and not enough run defense, will ultimately do the Lions in. At this point, expectations are still low for the Lions, and I’ll simply take some steady improvement. Minnesota 34, Detroit 20

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Behind Enemy Lines: My Day at the Minnesota Vikings’ Training Camp

Dear Sports Fans,

I have been behind enemy lines and lived to tell you about it.

It is purple, and smells of kettle corn.

This morning I had the pleasure to attend Vikings Training Camp in Mankato, MN—held on the beautiful and spacious Minnesota State University (Div II). Mankato is a wonderful town. Accessed by the “Laura Ingles Wilder Memorial Freeway,” it is a bit bigger than in her day—a little smaller than Muskegon or Bay City.

Mankato is also the one-time home of Detroit Tiger, Curtis Granderson, who played for the Mankato Mashers (a summer league/college-aged team) when he was 19. I interviewed Granderson last year who said that Mankato is a “great town.” He spent a lot of time at the local Buffalo Wild Wings.

Mankato also happens to be about 45 minutes from where I went to school, and where I currently produce and host a sports radio show.

It turns out, we’re part of the Vikings’ Radio Network.

And it turns out, there are perks.

This morning, I was not only in attendance, I was a VIP. I brought my good friend, Matt. He (God bless him) is a Packer fan. There we were, a Lions’ fan and a Packers’ fan, traipsing past an endless sea of Purple and Gold—like a hairy and smelly Prince concert, into the VIP area in the endzone at MSU.

See, the Vikings do training camp right. They don’t go hundreds of miles away, pissing off their players, families, and fanbase. They hole themselves up in a posh, air-conditioned facility away from prying eyes.

They go about an hour away, so personnel and media—most of whom live on the southside of Minneapolis anyway—can drive in the morning. They go to a city that has a life and a vibrant section of the fanbase that appreciates football.

Vikings’ players love Mankato. They’re treated like kings. Even a guy the size of Steve Hutchinson can slip away and find some peace. Meanwhile, the entire town turns into one big fanzone. Chuck Foreman, Randall McDaniel, Fran Tarkenton are just some of the names that have graced Mankato in recent years.

Bud Grant is practically a fixture.

Think of how Kalamazoo, Allendale, or even Ann Arbor would react to the Lions descending on their town. How much more if the Lions were relevant!

Entry is free.

I’ll let that sink in for a second…

The local rock station blares their feed over giant speakers. There is an NFL Kidszone set up where you can punt, pass, or kick your way to mini stardom. The place is littered with displays to tell you how big players hands and feet are.

Food vendors dot the landscape. Kettle Corn is a Minnesota specialty, and the entire place reeks of it. I passed, knowing free food was up ahead.

So, Matt and I head up to the VIP platform. It was a nice, sunny day (no “purple rain”). We were greeted by a few lovely attendants who offered us beverages and told us about the accoutrements. Then Chad Abbot, director up at KFAN, introduced himself and told us what we could look forward to.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was having Paul Allen, voice of the Vikings, do his midday show from about five yards away. This man was built for play-by-play. He has the calm basso profundo of Kevin Harlan and the urgency of Dickie V. He’s also a riot.

The downside of the show was the ***hat who tried to tell the listeners all the reasons Chicago would take the banner from the Tigers.

The upside was after the show, hearing Allen describe his daughter’s lovely dance teacher, in length. As beautiful as he makes an Adrian Peterson run sound, think what he can do for shapely curves.

Then, once-more, the Packerbacker and I waltzed past some Vikings’ faithful on our way down to the field for some up close and personal scouting.

I’ve interviewed many of these guys, many of them with towels around their waist and chest acne staring me right at eye level. There aren’t many athletes who truely overwhelm me with their size any more. (Aaron Kampman and Steve Hutchinson being the notable exceptions.)

But Phil Loadholt, that kid is a King-size case of muscle. He may have some holes in his game but he is still growing. He could easily add another 20 lbs and no one would notice—except defensive ends everywhere.

As for the Vikings’ other rookie, Percy Harvin—the pot-smoking speedster—is worth the price of admission. If he ever gets a QB to throw him the ball, he could be special.

That brings us to the quarterback situation.

Lions’ fans, I wouldn’t worry about this one.

Sage Rosenfels looks a lot like Joey Harrington once did. No, not awkwardly feminine. (Well, a little bit.) But rather, everything for him is a check down. He certainly can’t hit a receiver in stride. The only time he got the ball in the endzone was on a fourth-down overthrow (following a third-down overthrow), on which Sidney Rice flashed some skills.

Tavaris Jackson, well, he looked a lot like Jon Kitna. Strong arm, well built, made a few flashy plays—can’t make a play on third down to save your life. In addition, Jackson has yet to comprehend the concept of timing routes.

John David Booty looked a lot like a steaming pile of crap.

If Jackson somehow finds the magic he captured at the end of last season, their offense could do some damage. However, none of these guys can manage to keep defenders out of the box.

After AP? I wouldn’t worry about that either. The best running plays of the day were courtesy of former Boise State Bronco, Ian Johnson. Second-year player, Albert Young, had a few nice pass catches and former Lion (and lollipop guild member) Antone Smith made a few flashes.

The defense? I won’t give you nightmares yet. They’re good. Ironically, they’re probably the only defense who could stop Peterson in his tracks. They’re certainly the only defensive line who can continually break through the middle of McKinnie and company.

As we left Mankato, I pondered how great a camp like this would be for Detroit. Believe it or not, Michigan is fundamentally a football state. We have five FCS schools and a number of Div II football programs. Yearly, our state produces a number of four and five star recruits.

Michigan, Michigan State, and even the directional U’s have rabid fanbases. Think if they united to form one giant, vibrant Lions’ Nation.

Minnesota has two below average football colleges. Its best football recruit plays catcher for the Twins.

Yes sports fans, I’ve been behind enemy lines and back.

It’s purple, reeks of kettle corn, and it comes with the startling realization that we’re all fans of a second rate franchise that often treats its fans to less than any other NFL Franchise.

It is one giant Adrian Peterson jersey—and a mullet.



NFC North: Betting NFL Season Win Totals

Over the next few weeks, I will preview each NFL division from an Over/Under season win total perspective.  All totals and odds to win division courtesy of as current as the date the article is published. 

For additional division previews please find links at the bottom of this article for previews of the NFC South, NFC West and NFC East divisions.


Detroit:  5

By now the Lion’s 2008 season needs very little introduction. 0-16 was good enough for the NFL’s worst-ever record and almost by default this team can only get better. 

Not only did the Lions lose, and lose often last year, they often did it in ugly fashion. They gave up 517 points, had a negative 249 point differential, and ranked almost rock-bottom in most major statistical categories. 

One thing in Detroit’s favor was that, when things were all said and done, they had faced the league’s second toughest schedule, having faced opponents with a combined 143-113 record.

The theme for 2009 will be that of new faces and trying to create a winning culture for a franchise that has averaged less than five wins over the last five years and hasn’t even seen the .500 mark in eight years.  For Detroit’s sake, hopefully this year’s schedule will be more accommodating as it sets up as only the 21st toughest.

The new faces are plentiful, starting with a new GM in Martin Mayhew, as the Matt Millen era finally comes to an end, a new coach in Jim Schwartz and new offensive and defensive coordinators in Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham, respectively.

Mass changes were made on both sides of the ball in an attempt to overhaul the roster and give Schwartz some better parts to work with. 

Through the draft, the Lion’s nabbed three players who were arguably the best at their positions and could be starters on the team for years to come.  QB Matthew Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew and S Louis Delmas will most likely be counted on to contribute at some point this season and could be keys to the revival of this dormant franchise.

Maurice Morris will join Kevin Smith in the backfield and Bryant Johnson should line up opposite Calvin Johnson. 

Several potential backups along a marginal offensive line were added, but some such as Jon Jansen and Ephraim Salaam are on the wrong side of 30 and others like Tony Fonotiu haven’t played in the league since 2006. By and large, this group will look very similar to the unit which struggled to create space or time for the offense to operate in 2008.

The Lions’ defense, while hard-pressed to be much worse than they were in 2008, may actually have the potential to be the team’s strength in ’09.  For years, WLB Ernie Sims has struggled with sub-par talent around him, however this year he will be joined by Julian Peterson and Larry Foote, both productive starters in the past for the Seahawks and Steelers, respectively. 

The secondary has the potential to have three new starters come opening day if rookie Delmas gets a chance, as well as the additions of Phillip Buchanon from Tampa and Anthony Henry from Dallas.

One of the biggest and most glaring concerns for Detroit this year will be their defensive line.  This unit contributed to the 32nd ranking versus the rush and 31st ranking in generating sacks on opposing QBs.  While the LBs and secondary made several upgrades, this group remained mostly the same. 

The lone key addition is DT Grady Jackson, who is still serviceable, but will be 35 this year and could have trouble holding up for an entire season.  Should Jackson start, he will combine with fellow DT Chuck Darby to make half the starters on the line well over 30.  Darby will be 33.

While the Lions’ schedule is slated to be on the easier side this year, it’s by no means a walk in the park either.  The first five weeks will see Detroit play no team with worse than an 8-8 record from last year, including the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Five. 

The schedule does lighten up after that, and the Lion’s will have the benefit of playing four teams who will be coming off a short week having played a Monday nighter.  Three of those games will be at Ford Field and three of them will take place during the last four weeks of the season, which could help the Lions finish strong.

The pieces are in place for a rebuilding process to begin, and Daunte Culpepper still has enough talent to manage this team until Stafford is ready to take the reins. 

It’s not often that even a five-win improvement from the season before would still not be enough to get over the posted win total, however tis’ the case with this year’s Lions.  Obviously Detroit won’t go 0-16 again and a four or five-win season seems very probable. 

Stranger things have happened and a strong second half to the season could push them over this win total.  However, this team had been far too bad, for far too long, for me to be confident trying to justify at least six wins for them this year.

Prediction:  Five seems about right, so if I had to I’d bet Under the total, but would prefer to wait and see if the number goes up at all before the season begins.

Chicago:  8.5

The Chicago Bears remained competitive throughout the 2008 year and were on their way to securing a playoff spot with three straight home wins in Weeks Fourteen to Sixteen.  However, when their playoff hopes came down to the final game of the year, they came up just short by losing in Houston 31-24.

By now, we know that Chicago made arguably the biggest splash this offseason by trading for disgruntled ex-Bronco QB Jay Cutler.  A lack of offense has been the achilles heel in Chicago for the past number of years, and passing attacks led by Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton have come up short in gaining Chicago elite status. 

Cutler brings with him all the tools necessary to revive an offense, however his new stomping ground won’t offer up nearly the quality of receiving options as the Broncos did.

Devin Hester has the speed to take advantage of Cutler’s cannon arm, however he has yet to prove he can be a consistent No. 1 receiving option, after making a name for himself as a returner.  Hester’s stat line read 51 catches for 665 yards and 3 touchdowns last year, hardly the kind of production you are looking for in a No. 1 wideout. 

TE Greg Olson has shown he can be dangerous but he alone won’t be enough. Should Cutler miss any time to injury, panic will rip through the Windy City, as there are no budding stars or wily veterans waiting in the wings as backups.

Cutler may have to take a back seat to the running game, as the Bears look to have a star for years to come with Matt Forte.  In only his rookie season, Forte amassed the seventh most rushing yards in the league while also adding 477 yards receiving. For all Forte’s accomplishments though, the Bears still ranked a dismal 24th in rushing and 21st in passing. 

With Cutler under centre now, Forte may see a little extra space as opposing defenses will have to respect the deep ball.

The offensive line was restocked, as the team said goodbye to Terrence Metcalf and John St. Clair and welcomed Orlando Pace, Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer into the mix. In Pace, C Olin Kreutz and RG Roberto Garza, the Bears will have three starters in their thirties, so keeping this group healthy and fresh will be a priority.

A defense which remained strong versus the rush, ranking fifth, yet poor versus the pass, ranking 30th, will return essentially the same group as last year.  The only major noteworthy additions are LB Pisa Tinoisamoa and FS Josh Bullocks.

Obviously the secondary must improve, but the once vaunted D is slowly on the decline.  This group will see a few faces move into their 30s and many more enter the 2009 season coming off poor performances in 2008.  This is no longer the feared group of defenders that lost in the Super Bowl not too long ago, and a 29th ranking in sacks is further evidence.

The schedule makers were very kind to the Bears in 2009, as they have been blessed with the league’s easiest schedule.  Chicago will only play six teams with winning records from last year and their combined opponent’s records from ’08 is only 105-149-2.  Chicago also avoids playing any teams coming off a bye and only has to play two games off short weeks of rest.

There’s a very real chance Brett Favre could un-retire again and steal the spotlight away from Cutler in the NFC North, but for the time being Cutler has the chance to be the star of this division. 

While having the Lions on your schedule twice will certainly contribute to an easy schedule ranking, there are definitely enough winnable games for the Bears in ’09.  That being said, teams can improve quickly in the NFL and many of their opponents will probably be better than their 2008 records would imply. I believe Chicago has many great pieces in place, however, collectively, I think they are on the decline. 

The window is far from shut though, and getting over this win total for at least another 9-7 season or better looks manageable.

Prediction:  Over 8.5 wins


Minnesota:  No Line Yet

As of the time of this writing, there has still been no number set for the Vikings for a season win total, which has to be because of the uncertainty of the status of Brett Favre. 

Given that Minnesota is favored to win this division at +162, followed very nearly by the Bears at +188, and taking into consideration the Bears over/under is 8.5 and the Packers is 9, my best guess would say the Vikings number should be about 9.5. 

Should Favre be deemed fit enough for NFL competition and the worst kept secret becomes a reality with him joining the Vikes, I could see the number rising to anywhere from 10-11 wins.

After stumbling out of the gate last season at 1-3, the Vikings proceeded to only lose three more games all year to finish with a 10-6 record and the NFC North division crown.  Much of their success could be attributed to their strong finish to the year, winning five of their final six games. 

Home field advantage didn’t prove to be enough though in the playoffs, as Minnesota bowed out early in the Wildcard round losing 26-14 to the Eagles.

The Vikings are a squad that’s most likely only a couple small pieces away from a championship-caliber team. 

They boast quite possibly the strongest 1-2 punch of running backs in the league in Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, a serviceable WR corps which added rookie Percy Harvin through the draft, and the top-ranked rush defense, which also has the ability to put opposing QBs in the dirt on every play.

Management decided to change very little this offseason, making no major additions save swapping out backup QB Gus Frerotte for ex-Texan backup Sage Rosenfels.  It will be a battle all training camp as to whether Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson gets to start in 2009, however as mentioned earlier, that could all change if Brett Favre joins to the team for another kick at the can.

The Fave saga could be detrimental to the mental psyche of the QBs on the roster right now, as the Vikings very public interest in Favre is certainly not a glowing endorsement to the players they have. 

While the offensive line did a great job clearing space for the running game in ’08, they were 28th in allowing sacks and will potentially be breaking in two new starters in John Sullivan at centre and rookie Phil Loadholt at right tackle.

Other than improving the 25th-ranked passing offence, the major concern going into the season is the likely suspensions of both of Kevin and Pat Williams on the defensive line.  Tyrell Johnson did a decent job when called upon last year, and he will be taking over at safety for the departed Darren Sharper.

Minnesota’s opponents ranked middle of the of pack record-wise after the season ended in 2008, and this year three quarters of the NFC North will play the league’s easiest schedule.  Minnesota comes in at 31st, with Green Bay at 30th, and as mentioned earlier Chicago at 32nd.  Looking at their travel schedule, it may be one of the easiest in the league as well, as they only play one game outside of either the Central or Eastern time zones.

The Vikings haven’t improved at all over last year.  Even if Favre comes aboard, I don’t think he will be a huge upgrade under center.  This is a player who wore out during last season, will be 40 in October, threw just as many interceptions as touch downs, and hasn’t been able to fully practice as he recovers from a bicep surgery this offseason. 

Favre was not the answer in New York and one year later, I don’t see any different scenario playing out in Minnesota.  It’s hard to make a prediction not knowing what the line will be, but given the uncertainly at QB, possible suspensions, new players on the o-line and the upgrades their division rivals have made, making a strong case for the Vikes seems difficult.

Prediction:  I will go out on a limb and say the Vikes regress, and would bet the Under, if the line is 9 or higher.


Green Bay:  9

A quick 2-0 start and a 4-3 record going into their bye in Week Eight had the Packers in a position to do some damage moving into the second half of the season.  Unfortunately

Green Bay was only able to win two of their remaining nine games, and only one of their last six, with the one win coming in their season finale against the Lions.  The game was essentially meaningless for both teams in regards to the playoffs, except that Green Bay wanted to avoid being the only team to lose to the Lions in 2008.

If you look at the games Green Bay won, their 6-10 record looks even less impressive, as two of those wins came vs. the Lions and another vs. the 4-12 Seahawks.

As mentioned earlier, the Packers face the third easiest schedule this season, so the potential to improve upon last year and get closer to their 2007 record of 13-3 is definitely there. 

Travel-wise, their schedule also shapes up nicely with only one game played outside of the Central and Eastern time zones, and besides divisional games, they only play three teams on the road who had winning records last year: Tampa, Pittsburgh, and Arizona.

The biggest change this offseason was the hiring of Dom Capers as defensive coordinator and the switch to the 3-4 defense he will be implementing.  The change will hope to improve upon Green Bay’s 26th ranking versus the rush and 25th ranking in generating sacks. 

The secondary was respectable as they ranked 12th versus the pass.

No major changes were made to the roster, besides DT Colin Cole’s departure.  However, RT Mark Tauscher may not return as he suffered a major knee injury in tearing his ACL.  Several other players will be returning from injuries sustained during 2008, which could be enough to bring the Packers back to prominence.

Offensively, Aaron Rogers proved he could step up more than adequately in his first year as Brett Favre’s successor. He ranked third in the NFC in passing yards, TDs and QB rating. 

WR Greg Jennings should be motivated to improve upon his career highs in 2008 as he just signed a new, lucrative contract extension. However, running backs, namely Ryan Grant, will have to do more than the four touchdowns they managed last season.

The NFC North should be a tightly contested division all year as, in my opinion, the Packers, Vikings and Bears don’t give up much between them.  Their difficulty of schedules are all about the same and each have their own question marks heading into the year. 

In the NFL you are never as good or as bad as your record may indicate from one year to the next, and I think that may be the case with this year’s edition of the Packers.  Sure they switched from Favre to Rogers in 2008, but Rogers was not responsible for the seven-win slide the team took. 

The schedule shapes up nicely and there’s enough talent in Green Bay to make a decent improvement.

Prediction:  Over 9 wins


Best bet to win division:  Green Bay Packers at +200