Just as Calvin Johnson has been the focus of much of the attention of Vikings players and coaches, so it is that Adrian Peterson has been the focus of the conversation in Detroit.
Peterson has had some huge days against the Lions, including a pair of 100-yard games last season. But Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham believes the Vikings have made some strides in the passing game with the addition of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. While Peterson is still the subject of his nightmares, Cunningham said offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has a lot of weapons at his disposal Sunday.
"Their design is well thought out and their coordinator has got a good background in Bill Walsh's systems and a lot of systems," Cunningham said. "They've got that Kingpin, number 28 (Peterson) back there. He makes me not sleep very well at night. They manage the ball and they've got good young players. They've got the receiver from Tennessee, Patterson. (Kyle) Rudolph didn't go to the Pro Bowl because he's not any good. He's a very good player. Overall, they've added some wrinkles, but they're still based on 28 running the ball."
The Lions' goal will be to stop Peterson, which is the goal of every defense. If they can accomplish that and make the Vikings one-dimensional on offense, they can attack Christian Ponder and pressure him. However, unless the Lions can contain Peterson, the Vikings will have the latitude to run the plays they want when they want to run them.
"You can't play the pass unless you stop the run," Cunningham said. "If they have you in either-or situations, it doesn't matter how good the DBs are. They will throw the ball at will, because you don't know what you're going to get. With our size up front, in preseason we looked pretty good against the run. I hope and feel that I'm right about it, so we'll see what happens and we'll be able to play that pass a little bit better."
The Lions understand what is at stake Sunday – getting a leg up in the division is a priority and winning a home game is viewed as a must for a team looking to erase the memory of a brutal 2012 season – much in the same way the Vikings used a strong start to exorcise the demons of a 3-13 2011 season on their way to the playoffs last year.
While Schwartz is trying to keep the game in perspective – it's just as important as games in Week 5, 10 or 15 – he realizes that the first game is the one that gets the attention initially and that, win or lose, there will be a lot of scrutiny on both teams after the game is done.
"It's one of 16 (games)," Schwartz said. "It's just life in the NFL. All of them are important. Look at Baltimore right now. They won the Super Bowl last year. It's easy to overreact with a win, whether it was Denver (Thursday) night, or overreact with a loss. That's just the way this league is and the scrutiny that goes along with it. You have to be resilient in this league. You have to persevere. We need to keep in mind there are 16 games. Certainly a win would help us. It's a division game. It's a home game. Those are two real, real important reasons right then. We want to get off to a good start. We'll do our very best to do it."
For the team that wins, Sunday will be viewed as the starting point of a potential playoff run. For the loser, it will be an early hole to dig out of – and that team will face the scrutiny of why they lost along with the other 15 teams that lose in Week 1.
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.
Lions focusing on ‘Kingpin' Peterson
Viking Update Top Stories
Diggs reaching rare Vikings airStefon Diggs is on pace for a couple milestones that haven’t been reached by a Minnesota Vikings receiver in this decade.
Viking Update3:05 PM
First half is doom and gloom for JaguarsThe Jacksonville Jaguars are too good to be 2-10, but, despite a talented roster, early struggles have been their undoing all season.
Viking Update8:38 AM
Preview: Jags loaded with talent, turnoversThe Jacksonville Jaguars should be better than their record indicates, but turnovers have been the Jaguars’ undoing.
Viking Update7:59 AM
Podcast: The odds on A.P., playoffsWill Adrian Peterson make it back and should he, and what are the odds the Minnesota Vikings make the playoffs?
Viking Update7:01 AM
Forbath hoping to find permanent homeVikings kicker Kai Forbath arrived in Minnesota under bad circumstances. He's looking to quit moving from town to town and make Minnesota his permanent home.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 8:19 PM