The Detroit Lions' 2013 season begins and ends with the Minnesota Vikings. Back in September, the Lions overcame a feisty Minnesota squad in the second half at home to start the season on the right path with optimism abound. Since then, there's been more similarities than differences between the two squads, each of whom are headed south for various reasons.
Both the Lions and Vikings, despite early designs on the playoffs, have completely fallen apart. Jim Schwartz and Leslie Frazier have found themselves on hot seats, and both could lose their jobs hours after Sunday's game ends. Regardless, what has helped the Vikings both struggle and have success this season? Here's a quick second look at the Norsemen.
Vikings' Offensive Difference Maker: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR. It's taken some time, but Patterson has started an evolution into one of the better young wide receivers to emerge in 2013. Not only has he scored three times in the passing game while collecting 438 yards, he's looked the part of a dangerous returner, scoring on kickoffs and changing games. The Lions will have to be mindful of Patterson's speed, especially considering their dinged up secondary has been exposed in recent weeks.
Vikings' Defensive Difference Maker: Chad Greenway, LB. Since having a pretty average day against the Lions back in September in the season opener, Greenway has played well, collecting three interceptions, three sacks and having six double-digit tackle games. The Lions have struggled passing the ball over the middle of the field, meaning Matthew Stafford will need to keep his eyes on Greenway, who has been a big hitter and play maker all season long.
Vikings' Major Problem Since Teams Last Met: Passing defense. Teams are getting whatever they want through the air against the Vikings most of the season. Minnesota has the 32nd ranked pass defense in the league, and has given up a startling 36 touchdowns while allowing 294 yards per-game through the air. With numbers like that, there should be no excuse for Matthew Stafford to not have a big day, with or without Calvin Johnson in the fold. Simply put, Minnesota can't stop anybody through the air and the Lions maintain a decent passing offense.
Vikings' Major Strength Since Teams Last Met: Rushing offense. Even without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have gotten solid contributions from Toby Gerhart and even Matt Asiata. They run for around 127 yards per-game, and 22 touchdowns on the ground, most in the league. The Lions' run defense has been excellent much of the year, which sets up a nice head to head matchup for Sunday afternoon. Can the Vikings rip off some long runs against Detroit? Peterson has shown the ability to have both big games and clunkers in the past against the Lions.
Intangibles: Metrodome's last ever game. The Lions don't like playing in the Metrodome, having only one there once since 1997 back in 2011. That day, it took an epic collapse by the Vikings for the Lions just to win in overtime. Detroit was crushed there last year, and without anything to play for this year, might they be in trouble? Count on the crowd to be charged up considering the circumstances, and that could help the Vikings pull out a close, emotional game, especially if the Lions are completely deflated and checked out.
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