The Lions come into this week with the public idea that they have given up on their season after trading Golden Tate away. The Lions are also coming off a 28-14 home loss against the Seahawks. These combined factors have made the Vikings 5 point favorites. The Vikings are coming off a loss to the Saints which I predicted here. The Vikings have been overrated all year after making the NFC Championship last year and signing Kirk Cousins in the offseason. With the news this morning that Stefon Diggs will miss the game, the choice is easy for me and it is the Lions.
Contrary to last year, it has been the Vikings offense that has led them to their 4-3-1 record. The Vikings defense has struggled all year and is ranked only 13th despite facing the 2nd easiest schedule of opposing offenses. All of the Vikings wins so far have come against teams that struggle offensively. The 49ers, Eagles, Jets and Cardinals are ranked 27, 23, 29 and 31 in offensive efficiency. Also please do not forget the Vikings lost to the team with the worst offensive efficiency, the Bills, 27-6 at home as 17 point favorites. Despite being the main reason for their team success, the Vikings offense only ranks 20th in overall efficiency. The Lions defense has had its share of struggles this year as well and is ranked 30th in overall defensive efficiency. Despite their low ranking I see the Lions defense having success here. Their defensive line is ranked first in adjusted sack rate and the Lions have had success this year against passing teams. Their wins against the Patriots and the Packers stick out as games where the secondary and the defense was very well coached. I think that continues here. The Lions defense should finally see the return of Ezekiel Ansah which will help their already dominant pass rush. Along with Stefon Diggs being out I give the advantage to the Lions defense here. This is also a good time for my weekly reminder that Kirk Cousins has turned the ball over more than anyone else in the NFL since he has become a starting QB.
On the other side of the ball we have a Lions offense that has a lot of talent but has been inconsistent this year. They are ranked 17th in overall efficiency, 20th in passing and 13th in rushing. As I mentioned in my NFC North preseason blog, the Lions have rebuilt to become more of a running team with the addition of LaGarrette Blount and the drafting of Frank Ragnow and Kerryon Johnson. The public is making a big deal over trading Golden Tate, granted he is the teams leading receiver. The Lions have quietly had more offensive success on the ground than through the air this year though. They still have talent at the wide receiver position with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay and Matt Stafford has been playing well also. The Vikings defense are not the same unit they were last year. They may also be without top cornerback Xavier Rhodes who is a huge loss to their already struggling pass defense. They should have no issues moving the ball against the Vikings this week with a balanced offensive attack.
This is also a division game in the NFC north where the first place Bears only have one more win than the Lions. This division is close and I expect this game to be as well. I like the Lions to lose by 3 or less if not win outright.