Line – Detroit Lions (-4)
With many angles and players to follow in this game, let’s take a look at the major storylines:
Will Matthew Stafford Play?
As of the latest reports, Stafford will start on Sunday. He’s said that his hip is feeling better, but he’s also still walking with a noticeable limp. If Stafford is unable to go, backup Shaun Hill would take over the reigns of the Lions offense. Over the years, Hill has played well and he’s definitely good enough to give Detroit a chance to win.
I would be highly surprised if Stafford did not play. This game has turned into a big early season battle and the Lions can ill afford to go 1-3. They have a buy week after this game, so Stafford will have extra time to heal up.
Can Christian Ponder Perform on the Road?
People are starting to see why the Vikings went out of their way to draft Ponder back in 2011. So far this season he’s managed the team to a tee. Through three games, he’s yet to throw an interception, and is completing over 70 percent of his passes.
It certainly hasn’t been anything flashy, but Ponder has played well enough to give his team a chance to win in all three games.
This showdown with the Lions will go along way towards showing if he truly has taken the next step as a pro quarterback. This is a major road test against a divisional opponent in which the winner will gain great momentum going forward. Without question, this is the biggest game of Ponder’s young career.
NFC North Impact
Not too many people predicted the Vikings would be tied for first place going into the fourth week of the season, but that’s the reality. At the same time, the Lions have their backs against the wall and cannot lose this game if they want to compete for a divisional title. A win or loss either way for each team will not seal their fate, but it will significantly alter their path the rest of the way.
As for what to watch for on the field, expect both teams to continue their trends from the first three weeks.
The Lions are going to throw it all over the field and will try to outscore the Vikings while Minnesota figures to continue a balanced run and pass attack in which they execute many safe plays.
Wide receiver Jerome Simpson is making his Vikings debut in this game. He will provide a much needed downfield threat and take coverage off of teammates Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph. Simpson’s return couldn’t come at a better time for Minnesota.
Detroit should do their best to run the ball with Mikel Leshoure, but obviously they’re going to get the ball the Calvin Johnson as much as possible. Their defense is down a man with starting tackle Corey Williams out following knee surgery.
I’m predicting a fairly high amount of scoring in this game with both teams in the high twenties or low thirties. This is truly anyone’s ball game and the team that doesn’t beat themselves will probably come out on top.