ANALYSIS: Detroit's Joey Harrington should find plenty of room in the Minnesota secondary and could very easily put up his first 300 yard passing day as a pro if Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg (NFC Coach of the Week) continues to cut the strings and let the rookie air it out. To prevent Minnesota from going exclusively to nickel and dime packages, Detroit needs James Stewart to do enough damage on the ground to keep the defense honest. The Vikings appear to be particularly vulnerable to play action, so look for Harrington to set up the deep ball with runs by Stewart and fullback Cory Schlesinger.
Defensively, Vikings' quarterback Daunte Culpepper is pulling his hair out trying to get wide receiver Randy Moss to play hard on every throw. Moss has lit up the Lions secondary in the past, but this group is young and fast, thanks to the emergence of both 6th round pick Chris Cash and 3rd rounder Andre Goodman. Both have the speed to run with Moss, yet the former Marshall product has a propensity for making the big play. Detroit needs to game plan to limit Moss' opportunities, but the Vikings standout may not even be available to Minnesota if he is convicted on drug charges and suspended by the NFL prior to the contest.
Adding insult to injury, the Vikings first-round draft pick Bryant (Mt.) McKinnie of Miami has threatened to sit the entire season rather than sign with Minnesota for anything less than $1 more than Dallas safety Roy Williams got. Vikings officials are intimating that they might let McKinnie sit until a month before the 2003 draft and then trading him for the best offer.
The Lions need to continue to put the pressure on Culpepper. Rookie defensive end Kalimba Edwards energized the pass rush, getting his first NFL sack and forced fumble. Edwards will continue to get plays as a situational pass rusher, in the mold of Green Bay's Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Edwards could eventually force his way into the starting lineup if he continues to produce in his limited number of snaps. Detroit's Chris Claiborne will be on the spot to limit the scrambling of Culpepper. Culpepper has, in some cases been Minnesota's best option in the run game.
PICK: While Minnesota is going to win a game sometime this year, it
won't be this week. The bye week helps the Lions get healthy, while Minnesota spirals down
to the basement of the NFL. Still, the Viking have enough weapons to score some points.
The Lions will just score more. Joey Harrington will throw for 300 yards, and James
Stewart will rush for 100.
Lions 34 - Vikings 20