VIKINGS ON OFFENSE
Last year, Bridgewater was sacked 12 times in two games with the Detroit Lions. Their first meeting produced the worst game of Bridgewater’s young career. He was sacked a whopping eight times, threw three interceptions and finished with a 41.3 passer rating. The second game was better, although not great. He still was sacked four times and threw one interception, but also had a touchdown.
In the first meeting with the Lions last year, at TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings ran for 69 yards, with Jerick McKinnon leading the way with 40 yards on 11 rushes. The second time around, McKinnon was out and Matt Asiata carried the load, rushing 11 times for only 36 yards and a touchdown.
But the Lions are without Ndamukong Suh, who had three sacks in the two games, which should help the Vikings’ interior pass protection, and likely without their best linebacker, DeAndre Levy. In addition, Matt Kalil is healthy again and playing better, which should help contain Ezekial Ansah, who had 2½ sacks in the first meeting last year.
VIKINGS ON DEFENSE
Now the Lions are even more dangerous in the backfield with lightning-quick Ameer Abdullah providing the impetus for the Vikings defense to maintain their gap control and gang tackle – both aspects that were poor against the San Francisco 49ers in the season opener.
In the passing game, the matchup to watch is cornerback Xavier Rhodes. In the first game, the Vikings played sides with their cornerbacks and limited the Lions to 155 passing yards. Calvin Johnson was out of that game with injury. When he returned for the second matchup, Rhodes shadowed Johnson and, despite the defense giving up 284 yards passing, Johnson was held in check, catching just four passes for 43 yards.
After the way the Vikings lost in the season opener, it’s hard to imagine they can play that poorly again, especially with their defensive integrity. The Lions, meanwhile, were stung in Week 1 as well, building a 21-3 lead before giving up 30 unanswered points.
While both teams certainly have the firepower to put up big offensive numbers, each struggled in the first week to show it. The Lions were only 3-for-10 on third down and ran 47 offensive plays. The Vikings were 1-for-9 on third down and ran 54 plays.
With no Suh, likely no Levy, and possibly no Haloti Ngata, the Vikings have to get Peterson going and then find Kyle Rudolph with favorable matchups on the linebackers. Las Vegas opened with the Vikings as the favorite, but they also haven’t been great at covering the spread in home games early in the season.
Vikings 17, Lions 16