A key battle in the NFC North gets underway in Week 1 of 2013 as the Minnesota Vikings travel to the Motor City to do battle with a Lions squad seeking redemption after last season. Though it had appeared the long years of hardship had come to an end in Detroit, last season’s 4-12 record suggested otherwise. Detroit was decimated by injuries and couldn’t play a lick of defense, two things that should change in 2013. Their opponents in the opening week are fresh off a surprise year that saw them qualify for the post-season. The Vikes have the best running back in the game in Adrian Peterson, and A-Pete always seems to love playing the Lions. But the biggest story entering this game for Minnesota will be the play of their untested quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder has received many doubts over his career and now’s the time to silence the critics. After a very disappointing pre-season, we’ll find out Sunday if the youngster is ready to do just that. Read on below for our official game selection between Detroit and Minnesota.
Vikings at Lions Betting Odds:
Minnesota Vikings +4 (-110)
@ Detroit Lions -4 (-110)
Over 47 (-110)
Under 47 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Vikings at Lions Pick:
For all of the struggles Detroit endured in 2012, I’m banking on 2013 being quite a different story. The Lions still possess one of the game’s elite offenses. Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson is lethal for any opposing defense, and the injuries that ravaged their secondary last year cannot possibly be as bad this time around. After improving and honing in on refining their defense, expect a big statement game in front of their hometown fans.
Though many within the Vikings organization are hoping Christian Ponder is the answer at quarterback, nothing he’s done thus far in his NFL career has suggested that. Ponder looks uncomfortable in the pocket, struggles with basic throws, and has seemed to regress since his rookie year. Going against a ferocious Lions’ pass-rush will put pressure on Ponder and likely force him into making a wealth of mistakes. Expect big years out of both Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, and the duo should be able to manhandle the Minnesota offensive line.
Another Lion looking for a bounce-back year is former Georgia Bulldog, Matt Stafford. Stafford knows he’s better than what he showed in 2012, and starting off against the Vikings should work out well for him. In his most recent four contests against the Vikes, Stafford possesses a 65.4% completion rate, with a 7:1 touchdown to interception ratio. And with a new weapon at his disposal in Reggie Bush, expect another big day for Stafford against the Vikings defense.
Sure Adrian Peterson will run well in this one, mostly because he’s A-Pete and he can’t be stopped. But after that, the Vikings have very little that will strike fear into the Lions’ defense. Look for Detroit to load the box and try and contain Peterson to the best of their ability. Just like Megatron, Peterson is in a league of his own and even though his production will be solid on Sunday, the Lions will do enough to stay afloat and emerge victorious. The Vikes are a one-dimensional team, and Detroit will pressure Ponder every single time he drops back in the pocket.
Ultimately expect the Lions to win this one comfortably. The Vikes are overrated because of last year’s success and Ponder currently has everyone fooled. He’s no longer a promising quarterback and the Lions will expose that on Sunday. Matt Stafford will exploit a young and unproven secondary for the Vikings, and Megatron will enjoy yet another stellar day against Minnesota. On the injury front, Minnesota will also be without key defensive tackle Kevin Williams, likely allowing Stafford more time in the pocket. Even though divisional games are often tighter than expected, look for a routine Lions victory in this NFC North clash. The line has jumped from 3 to 4, but I’ve got no issue laying four with the Lions today.
PICK = Lions -4 (-110)