These are some of the things I’ll be watching for on Sunday.
Underestimating The Lions
And looking past them is beside the point anyway because what might seem at first glance easy wins looks a lot tougher upon closer examination.
- The Chicago Bears are playing a lot better than their record suggests (they just beat Dallas last night)
- The Chargers is a road game, so an easy win is not a given
- And then there are the Packers
Did you watch the Detroit Lions play the Bears on Thanksgiving?
With Matthew Stafford injured and having put their backup quarterback on injured reserve, head coach Matt Patricia was forced to start his third string QB, David Blough.
Blough is an undrafted rookie free agent signee who plays like a seasoned veteran. His performance against the Bears was pretty amazing.
His first regular season NFL pass attempt went for a 75 yard touchdown. He demonstrated a strong, accurate arm. He showed absolutely no rookie jitters or happy feet in the pocket. While under duress, he kept his eyes downfield looking for an open receiver. Most rookies in his situation drop their eyes to focus on the pass rusher when the pocket starts to collapse.
As usual, Pete Berchich does a superb job of breaking down Blough’s performance. (And, as usual, I’ve cued it up to spare you as much as possible the absolutely insufferable Paul Allen.)
As we know all too painfully, the Vikings have a rich history of losing to inexperienced and backup quarterbacks.
Here’s the disaster scenario (and it would be typical Vikings luck): Blough gets knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter with the Lions trailing.
Patricia has no choice but to put in former Vikings backup quarterback Kyle Sloter, who was only recently signed off the Arizona Cardinals‘ practice squad and Sloter looks just like he did for us in every pre-season game he played, performing some magical come-from-behind victory to beat his former team.
That, of course, would unleash Sloter fandom to bellow a collective I TOLD YOU!
Dalvin Cook says he’ll play on Sunday. The Vikings injury report listed him as a full participant for Friday’s practice. And Mike Zimmer says he’ll play.
That’s great but even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alexander Mattison gets a bigger workload than usual in order to spell Cook a bit more.
One of the things that I was excited about at the beginning of the season was Mattison’s play during the pre-season. He’s kind of a replica of Cook but without the blazing breakaway speed and maybe a little more power.
Given Cook’s injury history, Mattison gave me a lot of confidence that if Cook went down again, the running game would still perform at a high level.
I would love to see what the running game looks like with healthy dose of Mattison. Maybe we’ll get a sneak peak on Sunday.
After the Vikings drafted Mattison, Peter Bercich analyzed his strengths in this video breakdown.
Every opposing quarterback is now attacking cornerback Xavier Rhodes, so there’s no reason to think Blough will be any different.
The Lions have some serious talent at wide receiver, with Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, and Kenny Golladay, so it will be interesting to see how Rhodes matches up.
If the Vikings are to do any damage in the playoffs, it will have a lot to do with how well the secondary performs. And that probably starts with Rhodes somehow turning it around.
Let’s hope he can do it.