Three Keys: A Minnesota Rebound or Detroit Doom

At 1-3, it’s safe to say we basically need to avoid some Detroit doom. A loss to the lousy Lions would be crushing to both our collective spirit and our chances at making the playoffs. Our Minnesota Vikings will therefore need to take care of business against those Detroit Lions. In this week’s prediction piece, we turn our attention to expectations, Detroit’s skill players (they have a few), and the purple secondary.

Key #1: Minnesota vs. Expectations

As silly as it sounds, this one might be the most important.

By a show of virtual hands, who had Cincinnati beating our Vikings in Week 1? I certainly didn’t. The Bengals aren’t a good team. We all reacted accordingly, boldly predicting a purple victory. What happened, of course, was what has happened far too often to our Vikings. We crapped the bed as we handed over a valuable W to Joe Burrow & Friends.

Seemingly everyone is picking our Minnesota Vikings to take down the Detroit Lions in Week 5. I know I’m picking Minnesota. What are the chances we regret that collective belief?

Our team doesn’t do well when we’re favored. We do better as underdogs. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure one could come up with several reasons why we fall into this trap on a consistent basis. Perhaps Zim finds a way to motivate his team when he can sell them on being overlooked or disrespected. Perhaps we don’t focus as much on the small details when we’re overconfident. Perhaps the people of Minnesota have angered a vengeful deity and we’re now suffering the horrible consequences. Other possibilities certainly exist.

A great team knows how to navigate expectations. They don’t care what other people say or think. They just show up, execute, and win the games they ought to (as well as several they ought not to). We’re far from being a great team, but we want to become one.

Let’s push aside the expectations and just take care of business.

Key #2: Minnesota’s LBs vs. Detroit’s Skill Guys

To be clear, I’m not talking about their WRs. Detroit’s receiving corps is, in a word, uninspiring. D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and T.J. Hockenson, on the other hand, are a trio to be respected.

In all likelihood, Anthony Barr is going to be back out there for our Vikings. When you partner him with Eric Kendricks and Nick Vigil, you get a really strong LB group. If I was designing the defensive game plan (thank God I’m not), I’d start with nullifying those two RBs. In my perfect world, Jared Goff is forced to beat us. Completely shut down that Lions rushing attack and put the ball in Goff’s hands. Good things will happen for the Vikes in that scenario.

Now, it’s not like our secondary gives us a ton of reason for optimism. Even a lousy QB and uninspiring group of receivers can make a play when someone forgets their coverage responsibility. That said, the pressure should be on Goff, so I think he’ll be looking for a lot of shorter, easier passes.

Hockenson will be a central part of the game plan if he is healthy enough to get out there. Swift and Williams are also very capable pass catchers. Our LBs will need to be sharp.

Key #3: Minnesota’s Secondary vs. Themselves

So many of our issues this season have come from our own errors. We commit boneheaded penalties and our offense sputters. We miss a short field goal and our team doesn’t come back. We forget our coverage assignment and we allow an explosive play.

Earlier, I wrote about how Minnesota’s corner depth was being tested over at Purple PTSD: “If Dantzler and Hand can’t go, it’ll be Peterson, Breeland, Alexander, and Boyd. From there, the Vikes could turn to Bynum. They could also play more of a traditional defense, one that features three LBs on the field. Anthony Barr is expected to return; Nick Vigil and Eric Kendricks are both strong in pass coverage. Minnesota can also look to their practice squad.”

We already addressed the LBs, so here are a few thoughts on the corners. Dantzler deserves to start if he is healthy enough. Breeland has given us no reason to believe he’s the best option. Both are good in run support, so there’s no real advantage in that facet of the game. Kris Boyd is physical and aggressive. On occasion, he gets lost in coverage. I still like him over Breeland at this stage.

I think both Peterson and Alexander will be fine in the end. They both need crisp games.

The Crystal Ball

I’m rolling with the good guys. I know expectations are dangerous, but do you really respect the Lions? They’re a brutal team, one that has been hit hard by injuries. It’ll be a complete embarrassment if we find a way to lose.

Offseason Prediction: Vikings 27 – Lions 13

Updated Prediction: Vikings 34 – Lions 17

The Vikings let me down last week, once again showing me why I shouldn’t have faith in them. My season prediction total is now sitting at 2-2. At least that’s a better number than their 1-3.