The last time the Detroit Lions won a game in the Minneapolis Metrodome, Barry Sanders was still the running back, Scott Mitchell threw a touchdown pass to Herman Moore, Peyton Manning was not starting games for the Colts, and the movie Titanic was getting ready to open in theatres. The Detroit Lions are 3-19 against the Minnesota Vikings since 2000. All three of those wins came in Detroit, including last year’s season finale.
Now, much of that has nothing to do with this current Lions team. This franchise didn’t exactly win road games–period–for much of the last decade. When you have two separate road losing streaks of 26 and 24, well, it wasn’t good. But now, with Matthew Stafford, Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson on offense, and a defense led by N’Damukong Suh, the Lions are emerging. They’ve won 3 road games in a row, and 6 straight regular season games, and in the last game, took Kansas City to the woodshed in a mismatch game at home.
The Vikings are coming off two straight crushing losses, where they led by at least 10 points at halftime in each. In the opener, it was a complete lack of offense that did them in, as the defense played well most of the game. Against Tampa Bay, it was key penalties and third downs that hurt them in the second half. Tampa Bay was 1 for its first 5 on third down, but finished 5 for 6 as the Vikings’ defense couldn’t get them off the field in the second half. Included among those was a key offsides penalty that negated a huge loss on third down for Tampa, and immediately preceded a 51 yard pass from Freeman to Preston Parker. The offense, meanwhile, went 0 for 5 on third downs in the second half, and may have won the game if they could have picked up just one more first down late.
The other rivalry game that hasn’t been much of a rivalry recently is in Buffalo, where the Bills haven’t defeated the Patriots since that memorable 31-0 game on opening day in 2003, when Tom Jackson declared that the Patriots hated their head coach. The Bills haven’t scored more than 10 points at home against New England since 2004, and the games in Rich Stadium have not been close recently.
If Buffalo is going to break through against the Patriots and continue their hot start, they have opportunity with some key New England injuries this week. Center Dan Koppen was placed on injured reserve, TE Aaron Hernandez, a key component in the two tight end sets, will miss the game with a knee injury, and tackle Sebastian Vollmer is out. Mike Wright, Albert Haynesworth, and Patrick Chung will miss the game on defense. The Patriots have been such a machine offensively in the first two games, but the injuries could affect that performance. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson will have opportunities against a defense that hasn’t been too stout anyway, and now has some starters out, as well as linebackers Gary Guyton and Jerod Mayo being limited in practice.
Jacksonville at Carolina: Blaine Gabbert makes his first start for Jacksonville, opposite Cam Newton.
San Francisco at Cincinnati: Looking forward to the Ken Anderson or Joe Montana highlights to distract from Alex Smith.
Miami at Cleveland: Miami can’t win at home but went 6-2 on the road last year. This is a fairly important swing game on the schedule for both of these teams.
Houston at New Orleans: A big time matchup in the Big Easy. Houston’s defense has been much improved through two weeks, especially at generating pressure on the quarterback, but will face its biggest test against Drew Brees and his quick release.
NY Giants at Philadelphia: Vick is expected to play. The Giants looked far from impressive despite the win over the Rams, and the passing offense will be without Mario Manningham–not a good thing to be limited at receiver and having Victor Cruz start opposite Hakeem Nicks against the Eagles corners. (Nicks better get ready for plenty of attention) Look for a heavy dose of running by Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs in this one to shorten the game.
Denver at Tennessee: Tennessee now gets to follow up its impressive win against Baltimore in a letdown situation by trying to avoid one of its own. Kenny Britt is having a monster year so far.
[photo via Getty]