The Minnesota Vikings fell to 5-4 on the season with a 30-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9, and they have now lost three of their last four games after being one of the surprise teams in the NFL through the early part of the season.
Week 10 brings a match-up at home with the Detroit Lions, who have won three of their last four games to bring their record to 4-4 after a slow start to the season. Minnesota beat the Lions 20-13 back in Week 4, propelled by a strong defensive performance and return touchdowns by wide receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Marcus Sherels.
The Vikings have had issues on both sides of the ball during their recent slide, but the struggles of quarterback Christian Ponder have clearly grabbed the most attention as he has failed to top 63 yards in two of the last three games and repeatedly looks skittish and tentative. The issues the Minnesota offense is having are wide-ranging, with failures in pass protection and shortcomings at wide receiver being the most obvious.
Ponder also has been battling a knee injury in recent weeks that looks to be limiting his mobility and affecting his accuracy, which magnifies the issues the offensive line has as well as the lack of play makers on the outside. Adding to Minnesota’s offensive misery is real likelihood Harvin, who leads the league in receptions with 62, will not play on Sunday due to a severe left ankle injury he suffered last week against Seattle. If Ponder starts slowly again on Sunday, the fans at Mall of America Field will certainly start chants for backup quarterback Joe Webb.
The once vaunted Minnesota run defense has struggled recently, as they have allowed an individual 100-yard rusher in four straight games. One of those was Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III back in Week 6 and was propelled by a 76-yard touchdown run late in that game, but over the last three weeks in particular tackling and positioning have been an issue against the run.
Being without cornerback Chris Cook (arm) this week to match up against Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson will hurt the Vikings’ pass defense, and being short on depth at corner will hurt their ability to contain the Lions’ passing game as a whole. The Vikings will need to generate pressure on quarterback Matt Stafford to have much hope of keeping the Lions’ offense under wraps, and that starts with the defensive line and defensive end Jared Allen in particular.
Prediction: Lions 28, Vikings 17