For the first time in nearly 10 years, the Detroit Lions will be facing the Minnesota Vikings with no help from franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford has played in all but two of Detroit’s matchups with Minnesota since he was drafted in 2009. Both of those missed games came in his sophomore season in 2010 when he missed time due to shoulder injuries.
Despite his consistency, Stafford’s record against Minnesota is not amazing. Stafford-led Lions teams are 8-11 against the Vikings. The Vikings have also won the last four against the Lions, and are undefeated at home this season. This all makes it sound like this Sunday’s matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium is already decided, but of course you’d have to be pretty immature to overlook Detroit.
Without Stafford, the Lions might actually have a better chance at success as Mike Zimmer’s team has continually shown up late, or not at all, to games against backup quarterbacks this season. The Vikings lost in Chicago to a Chase Daniel led Bears team after Mitchel Trubisky was injured on Chicago’s first drive. The Vikings also lost in Kansas City to Matt Moore and the Chiefs.
The only games that the Vikings haven’t lost to backup quarterbacks were against the Washington Redskins, where they played flat pretty much all game and would have lost were the Redskins not a dreadful football team, and against the Denver Broncos where Kirk Cousins has to drag his team back from down 20-0 at halftime.
So, Minnesota is 2-2 against backup quarterbacks this season. To be fair to them, Kansas City’s skill position players are difference makers despite who their quarterback is and the season has completely turned around since they were soundly beaten by the Bears at Soldier Field. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Mike Zimmer’s defense often comes out soft against these backup quarterbacks and doesn’t make them make plays.
If the Vikings want to win comfortably on Sunday, which they should, they should be ready to take chances and send pressure to the Detroit quarterback. It may also help to put some pressure on your own defense to make plays, after surrendering 444 yards and 37 points to the Seattle Seahawks, to try and build some confidence going into some of the most important games of the season.
The Lions will likely be starting David Blough, who started their last game against Chicago. In that performance, Blough put up 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. That was however a home game where Blough was effective until he was asked to make plays at the end of the game. He will have a tougher time this week dealing with the crowd noise of one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
One last thing to note is that the Lions currently have former Vikings Kyle Sloter on their roster. Sloter, the preseason darling of the last two years, was signed from the Arizona practice squad a few days ago. It would be unlikely for Sloter to play, but if he gets a chance, Vikings fans might finally get their answer to all their questions about that man who lit-up third string defenses.