After another uneventful Thursday Night Football match up, football fans across the nation eagerly await another NFL Sunday. This week features some of the best match ups we will see the entire NFL season. Baltimore hosts Pittsburgh in a fight for first of the AFC North. Division foes Oakland and Denver battle it out at Mile High. And Los Angeles (Rams) travels to Dallas where they look to take down the Cowboys, fresh off a road win in Arizona. But the game that grabs me more than the rest? The NFC North square-up in Minnesota.
A FIGHT FOR THE NORTH
With both the Lions and the Vikings sitting on a 2-1 record, week four brings with it the ability to fuel much momentum moving ahead. Green Bay handled Chicago on the road with ease, pushing themselves ahead to first in the division with a 3-1 record. The winner of Detroit-Minnesota will share the division lead with Green Bay, while the loser will still have a one game lead over the 1-3 Chicago Bears.
DETROIT MAKING SOME NOISE
Detroit has had a rather impressive start to their year, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Lions high-powered offense has averaged over 28 points per game through three weeks. Although quarterback Matt Stafford has regressed since his four-touchdown performance week one, the Lions have still managed to put themselves in a position to put points on the board. Last week, in a tough home loss to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, kicker Matt Prater went 4/4 on field goals, including two from 50-plus yards.
Defensively, Detroit has been causing turnover after turnover. In just three games, the Lions have forced eight turnovers, three of which came off of 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan. Aside from giving up 30 in that loss to Atlanta, Detroit has held their opponents to a respectable number of points. They currently rank 15th overall in points allowed per game (ESPN.com).
DEFENDING HOME TURF
With a brand new home venue, the Vikings strive to move to 3-0 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Following a disappointing 26-9 loss in Pittsburgh during week two, Minnesota bounced back with a vicious 34-17 week-three victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Case Keenum, Minnesota’s backup quarterback, has had to fill the shoes of Sam Bradford, who put on an absolute clinic week one before being sidelined due to injury. Keenum struggled on the road against the Steelers but bounced back with a three-touchdown, 369-yard outing against the Bucs. Bradford hopes to take the field Sunday, but Keenum has been preparing heavily for his shot to start as well.
The Vikings have, in recent years, been viewed upon as a defensive-based team. With studs like Anthony Barr and Xavier Rhodes heckling the opposition, the Minnesota defense has emerged as one of the finest in football. The Minnesota D has faced some of the most recognized quarterbacks in the game so far this year, having faced Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Jameis Winston. Stafford represents an easy test, but facing some impressive quarterbacks thus far prepares the Vikings well.
When it comes to inner-division matchups among two similarly skilled teams, I have to give the home team the edge. Minnesota has dominated in their new stadium, with an incredible fan base. The rowdy atmosphere of Minnesota is not fun for an opposing quarterback. If I had to hear that violent Vikings horn blaring after turning the ball over, I would be damn straight phased. Stafford’s composure will be tested this game.
Final Score: Minnesota 31, Detroit 27
Stud Finder: Adam Thielen, 6 receptions, 111 yards, 2 TD’s