The Vikings won't know until a couple hours before the game whether Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder can play, but either way the stats are stacked against the Vikings. We look at the rankings to find the few areas where they may have an advantage.
Perhaps never has a Vikings offense had so many unanswered questions in the hours leading up to a game.
Make no mistake. The Vikings have a feeling whether Adrian Peterson
and Christian Ponder
will start later today against the Detroit Lions
, but since both were very limited in practice this week and Peterson was visibly in pain trying to push himself Friday, both have been labeled as "game-time decisions." In doing so, they have given the Lions a lot to think about … and prepare for.
The outlook couldn't be much different with Peterson or Toby Gerhart
as the starting running back. Peterson demands eight men in the box because, if he gets a head of steam, he can break a touchdown run at any time. Gerhart is much more or a straight-line runner and seeks contact rather than running laterally. Whereas Peterson makes some of his most significant yardage when he improvises in the middle of a play, Gerhart lowers his head and grinds extra yardage. A Lions defense preparing for Peterson won't have the same level of preparation for Gerhart.
Even more pronounced is the potential difference at quarterback. Ponder is developing into a pocket passer with good escapability. Joe Webb
is a Wildcat style quarterback that would bring a completely different dimension to the Vikings offense, one that the Lions have either potentially wasted timing preparing for or haven't adequately prepared for and may be forced to make significant schematic changes on the fly.
Who's in? Who's out? If a betting line (which has been taken off the board in some Vegas books), is to be placed on it, the best information says that, barring a setback, Ponder is more likely to start than A.P. The chances of both of them playing is better than neither of them playing, but rarely has an offense come into the morning of a game not knowing if their starting quarterback and franchise running back will play. Makes you wonder if Donovan McNabb
would have started had Ponder not been able to, but that possibility is gone. Will it be Ponder and Peterson? Will it be Webb and Gerhart? Will it be a partial combination of the two? Stay tuned.
VIKINGS-LIONS BY THE NUMBERS
The Lions have the 8th-ranked offense in the league (23rd rushing, 5th passing) and the 13th-ranked defense (22nd rushing, 11th passing). The Vikings have the 17th-ranked offense (6th rushing, 26th passing) and the 19th-ranked defense (12th rushing, 26th passing).
The Vikings are averaging 329 yards a game on offense (194 passing, 135 rushing). The Lions are averaging 384 yards a game (281 passing, 103 rushing).
Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 356 yards a game (252 passing, 104 rushing). Detroit is allowing 339 yards a game (214 passing, 125 rushing).
While the Vikings are sixth in total yards rushing, they are third in average gain per rushing attempt.
The Lions defense is 22nd against the rush, but 28th in average per rushing attempt.
The Vikings offense is 28th in sacks per pass play allowed on their quarterbacks. The Lions are 8th in that category.
The Vikings are 11th in third-down conversions on offense, making good on 64 of 162 attempts (39.5 percent). The Lions are dismal, ranking 31st at 30.3 percent (47 of 155). The league average is 38.1 percent.
Defensively, the Vikings are 28th on third downs, allowing conversions on 68 of 158 opportunities (43 percent). The Lions are 1st in third-down defense, allowing just 29.7 percent (46 of 155).
The Lions are fourth in the league in scoring. The Vikings are tied for 23rd.
The Vikings defense is 30th in the league in interceptions per pass play.
The Vikings are 31st in points allowed.
Detroit is tied for sixth in the league in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-5 (23 takeaways, 18 giveaways). The Vikings are tied for 13th with an equal number of both (16 giveaways, 16 takeaways).
The Lions are sixth in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 25 of 42 possessions (59.5 percent). The Vikings are 14th at 52.6 percent (20 touchdowns on 36 possessions).
The Lions are eighth in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 19 of 42 opponent red zone possessions (19 of 43). The Vikings are 13th at 48.8 percent (21 of 43).
Matthew Stafford has had five 300-yard passing games. The Vikings have had just one, coming last week from Christian Ponder.
The Vikings and Lions have both allowed three 300-yard passing games against them.
The Lions have six 100-yard receiving games – five from Calvin Johnson and one from Brandon Pettigrew. The Vikings have had two – one from Percy Harvin and one from injured Michael Jenkins.
The Vikings have allowed seven 100-yard receivers. The Lions have allowed just three.
Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard rushing games. The Lions have had two – one from Jahvid Best and one from Kevin Smith.
The Lions have allowed three 100-yard rushers. The Vikings have allowed two.
Stafford is second in the league in pass attempts (487) and completions (307), is fifth in yards (3,527), fourth in touchdowns (27) and ninth in passer rating (91.3).
Stafford's only real weakness as a passer has been on third down, where he is 28th in passer rating of the 30 QBs with enough passes to qualify. He has completed just 61 of 126 passes (48 percent) with six touchdowns, six interceptions and a hideous passer rating of 63.5. Only Curtis Painter of the Colts and Rex Grossman of the Redskins have been worse on third down. Ponder has a third-down passer rating of 73.1.
Having missed the better part of the last three games, Peterson has dropped into a tie for 11th place with 872 rushing yards – tying him with DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys. Best leads the Lions with 390 yards, despite having not played for more than a month, putting him in 41st place.
Johnson is third in the league in receptions with 69. Harvin is tied for 13th with 59 catches.
Johnson is tied for second in receiving yards with 1,092 – trailing only Wes Welker of the Patriots (1,253). Harvin leads the Vikings with 710 yards, placing him 25th in the league.
Despite missing more than two-and-half games, Peterson is tied for fourth (with Johnson) in scoring among non-kickers with 12 touchdowns.
Ageless Jason Hanson is ninth in scoring among kickers with 97 points. Ryan Longwell is tied for 22nd with 76 points.
Lions CB Chris Houston is tied for fifth in the league with four interceptions and is the only player to have a pair of pick-six touchdown returns.
Jared Allen remains in second place in the league in sacks with 14.5, a half-sack behind DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys. Cliff Avril leads the Lions with seven sacks.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.