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I’m not sure how this game wound up within a score at the end…with the Lions a serious chance to take the lead/win in the 4th-quarter, but the Vikings stepped on the Lions all throughout the final quarter and got away with the victory, 30-23. It didn’t feel that close watching and re-watching it. You can thank the referees for keeping this close with odd calls/no calls favoring the Lions, in my opinion.
Every time I watch Lions games, I feel like I’m watching the same game over and over – the Lions can’t run the ball at all. They have to come up with timely pass plays to stay in games, and many of their wins have a defensive score mixed in to help them jump out to/get to a lead and then they run to nowhere and pass short to burn clock to try to get away with the victory. Without a boost from a defensive score, a league-leading 5 defensive TDs YTD, the Lions are scuffling to hang week-to-week. I don’t recall the last time I watched a Lions game and thought they were the better team…or that they were an imposing team or a terrible team – I always think ‘they’re solid’ and ‘they’re lucky’. Their luck ran out in this one.
Still, the Lions are very viable to make the NFC wild-card, just less viable with this loss. Detroit is 6-4 and has 5 winnable games ahead. We maintain the NFC playoffs require at least 10 wins to have a chance, so Detroit needs to go 4-1 to finish out the season…it’s possible (at BAL, at TB, CHI, at CIN, GB), but something tells me they stumble in one of their next two road games and then they cannot win out from there. This team just isn’t that good. The schedule helps. If they make a radical turn and change up the backfield it might spark something – the hope is there, but Jim Caldwell has come this far doing the same things…he’ll keep doing the same 8-8 things ahead, you’d assume.
I have to give it up to the Vikings…30+ points scored in three of their last 4 games. Case Keenum has 280+ yards passing in all 4 games in that stretch. This team is on a roll, and I think they sense this spurt can end quickly…thus the Teddy Bridgewater door is always kept open, but they are white hot right now. I just feel like there will be a turn, a bad bounce…a something that ends the good times, and then the Vikings have a cold finish to the end. They’re still winning the NFC North and all, but if there is such a thing as a team ‘peaking too soon’, I feel like it’s happening with Minnesota. It could be as simple as Keenum has a bad game, they pull him for Teddy…and that creates chaos where it didn’t need to be created. I just feel like this team is a sweater with a loose thread, and it’s going to get pulled and unravel at some point.
The Vikings are 9-2, and project to a 12-4 finish. That should be good for the #2 seed and a BYE as the Saints are about to fall and they have a tie-breaker over the Rams. Week 13 at Carolina may be huge for whether Minnesota gets a BYE or not…and a loss there could be the beginning of the unraveling of which I spoke.
I’m not in love with what I see from Minnesota but I know they are legit. 4-5 teams are all very good and flawed at the top of the NFC. Any of the them could get hot late and go to the Super Bowl…Minnesota is one of those teams but the gauntlet of the next 4 regular-season games and 2-3 playoff games – you’re asking me to believe Case Keenum is going to keep climbing over all the good teams and survive to the end…I can't believe it. Keenum has 9 TD passes the past 4 games, awesome. The prior 4 games he had 2 TD passes. Keenum has faced four top 12 pass defenses this season (LAR, CHI, PIT, BAL), he’s thrown 2 TDs/1 INT against them total. That’s why the Teddy door is open…and Zimmer’s finger is on the trigger ready to pull.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Jerick McKinnon’s (13-23-0, 1-31-0/3) numbers are running out of juice. When the offense was struggling midseason, McKinnon helped carry it. Now, the offense is hot and we’re moving into Mike Zimmer’s preference – get a lead/stay close and run the ball. He’s choosing to power-run with the bigger Latavius Murray (20-84-1, 0-0-0/1).
The dip in McKinnon’s touches, especially as a receiver, is another reason I don’t trust the Vikings to outlast all the good teams in the end – they have a dynamic RB who could hit home runs in the passing game but they pull away from that and go to a more traditional offensive pattern of run-run-pray for a 3rd-down passing conversion on a medium route throw-punt-play good defense. I just don’t think that wins enough in the end…no matter how good Adam Thielen is. It’s why Atlanta will falter in the end…they do the same thing pulling back on Tevin Coleman. The Patriots, Steelers, the Rams, the Redskins (when Chris Thompson was there), the Saints, the Panthers…all push their RB(s) heavy in the passing game – I think that will take them farther in the playoffs (where one big play can change/win a game) than traditional offenses like Minnesota, Atlanta, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Philly in the end.
McKinnon is falling to RB3 status week-to-week in PPR now. His TDs have dried up.
-- Speaking of drying up – Golden Tate’s (4-7-0/8) run as a WR1 appears to be over.
Marvin Jones (6-109-2/9) has come back from the dead and Kenny Golladay (2-61-0/4) is stealing a little thunder each week. Matt Stafford has options. He doesn’t have to throw every other pass to Tate.
When Tate doesn’t get the ball he pouts, so buckle up for a story out of Detroit about Tate whining as/if the Lions fall out of the playoff race.
In their last 6 games…
5.0 rec. (9.0 targets), 91.7 yards, 1.00 TDs per game = Jones
5.7 rec. (7.2 targets), 71.8 yards, 0.33 TDs per game = Tate
Tate is a legit WR2 any given week, but those auto-WR1 numbers in PPR are slipping away.
-- Detroit cannot run the ball, and Ameer Abdullah (6-14-0, 3-29-0/5) proves that every week. Plus, Abdullah was one of the all-time fumblers in college football…and he’s fumbling every week recently for the Lions. It’s such an obvious issue that needs correcting that it drives me insane watching as the Lions trot out AA every week as the starter, only to be disappointed once again.
Zach Zenner (1-6-0) was active for this game. About midway in, Zenner took a hand-off and worked like he always does – tough, slippery and productive. He gained 6-yards on the best-looking run of the day for the Lions. Of course, that’s a signal to the Lions never to hand him the ball again.
Zenner was forced touches late last year as all the Lions’ RBs got hurt, and he answered with 92, 110, and 88 total yards in Weeks 16-17 and in the first-round of the playoffs…and scored 3 TDs. That effort has been meaningless for the #30 rushing yards per game offense this season.
The Lions won’t change, but the results keep getting worse. I still believe, because I’m dumb and never learn, that the Lions will give in and push Zenner (or Dwayne Washington) the following week. It’s getting closer to reality because not only is Abdullah terrible running the ball but he’s also fumbling all over.
Zenner is the more likely of he and Washington to emerge because Zenner is more proven and is a better runner of the ball at this stage…a bulldog runner and good receiver. Washington has more natural talent but is not the polished, proven runner Zenner is.
-- The Lions are getting crushed on the ground of late – 201, 222, and 136 yards rushing allowed the past three weeks. In response, the Lions have been pulling rookie Jarrad Davis (7 tackles) some plays and inserting Paul Worrilow (6 tackles, 0.5 TFLs) to help stop the bleeding. Worrilow has 6-2-6 for tackles the last three games after being nothing but a special team guy prior.
I don’t think the Lions will bench Davis for Worrilow because of pride…so, no sleeper move with Worrilow – and no end in sight for stopping the run for the Lions.
Snap Counts of Interest…
29 = Abdullah
26 = Riddick
06 = Zenner
73 = Whitehead
54 = Jarrad Davis
35 = Worrilow
32 = Ansah
40 = Latavius Murray
33 = McKinnon