Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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CAR at ATL *NE at BUF *SD at KC *WAS at TB
*CIN at JAC *NO at GB *SEA at STL *CHI at DAL (MON)
*Updated *MIA at ARI *NYG at PHI *SF at NYJ Bye: IND, PIT

Prediction: MIN 20, DET 30 (Line: DET by 5.5)

Players to Watch: Jerome Simpson, Mikel Leshoure

Players Updated: Mikel Leshoure, Matthew Stafford, Kyle Rudolph

The 1-2 Lions have not lost a home game to the Vikings since 2009 and return after two straight road losses to the 49ers and Titans. The 2-1 Vikings come off their big upset over the 49ers and hit the road where they had their only loss. The Lions swept the Vikings last year, winning 26-23 at Minnesota and later 34-28 at Detroit. This time the Lions may have a running back while the Vikings are still trying to get Adrian Peterson 100% back.

Minnesota Vikings
Homefield: Metrodome
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 JAC 26-23 ot 10 DET -----
2 @IND 20-23 11 BYE -----
3 SF 24-13 12 @CHI -----
4 @DET ----- 13 @GB -----
5 TEN ----- 14 CHI -----
6 @WAS ----- 15 @STL -----
7 ARI ----- 16 @HOU -----
8 TB ----- 17 GB -----
9 @SEA ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
MIN @ DET Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Cassel 260,2
QB Christian Ponder 20 240,2
RB Adrian Peterson 80 2-10
RB Ben Tate 50,1 2-10
WR Greg Jennings 5-60,1
TE Kyle Rudolph 5-50,1
PK Blair Walsh 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: Big win over the 49ers no matter if it was a trap game or not. The defense stepped up to hold them to just one touchdown and the offense saw Christian Ponder not only pass for two scores, but added a rushing touchdown on his seven runs for 33 yards. Ponder had almost never rushed this year before the 49ers showed up. That gives Ponder four touchdowns on the season against no interceptions and he is averaging a respectable 237 yards per game.

This week he gets Jerome Simpson off suspension and with that a sorely needed complement to Percy Harvin. Simpson will provide the deep patterns to either pull the defense back or make them pay for single coverage. Until now, the passing effort has evolved around finding Percy Harvin on short routes that rarely top ten yards. If Simpson can "take the top off the defense" it will free up Harvin even more for better yards after the catch. Simpson was impressive and exciting in the preseason and no one else has stepped up in the last three weeks.

Kyle Rudolph is now the leading scorer for the team with two touchdowns against the 49ers added to the one in week two versus the Colts. His yardage is lacking but again - Simpson can add an element to the passing game that should open it up for the other players like Rudolph and Harvin. Rudolph is not getting enough work to suggest he is a new elite tight end, but scoring three times in just two games means he may be on his way.

Adrian Peterson opened the year nicely with two scores on the Jaguars but has been less effective since. He gained 60 yards on 16 carries against a weak defense in Indianapolis and then 86 yards on 25 runs in the win over the 49ers. Not bad stats but also not exactly what we had been used to seeing. Peterson has run 58 times for 230 yards and just under a four yard rushing average. He may not be all the way back, but he is definitely back enough to matter.

The Lions have been great against the run with only one rushing score allowed while in San Francisco. But the passing defense has been average at best and Ponder again gets a chance to shine plus uses Jerome Simpson for the first time.

Gaining Fantasy Points MIN 15 16 17 15 10 23
Preventing Fantasy Points DET 21 3 17 31 30 31

QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN @MIA 30000021011 ***
Bridgewater continues to improve as he takes the reins of the Vikings. His streak of three straight with multiple touchdown passes ended last week but he did record his second consecutive 300-yard outing. The Dolphins have surrendered multiple scoring strikes in three of four, so Teddy has at least a chance to keep building towards becoming a regular fantasy contributor.
RB Matt Asiata, MIN @MIA 4005300000 ***
The Dolphins are far from a shutdown run defense--they allowed two RB rushing scores last week to the Patriots--but while Asiata is essentially the only show in town he's nothing special. He'll need to be set up for a shorty to get you a touchdown, and his yardage is unlikely to be anything noteworthy as well. You should be able to do better in championship week.
WR Greg Jennings, MIN @MIA 004501000 ***
Multiple mouths are being fed in the Minnesota passing game, with no one target standing out above the others. First it was Charles Johnson, then it was Jarius Wright and last week it was Jennings who found the end zone. The Dolphins have allowed seven WR TDs in the past four games so there's some opportunity here, but it's both limited and fractured; you should have better options at your disposal for championship week.
WR Charles Johnson, MIN @MIA 005600000 ***
Johnson was the most-targeted Vikings wideout for the second straight week, and his 72 yards was nothing to sneeze at. But where Teddy Bridgewater is topping out at, there just isn't enough to make multiple Vikings' pass-catchers fantasy-relevant.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Blair Walsh, MIN @MIA 2211 ***
Walsh is one for his last six; he couldn't hit water falling out of a boat at this point, so get your kicks elsewhere.

Detroit Lions
Homefield: Ford Field
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 STL 27-23 10 @MIN -----
2 @SF 19-27 11 GB -----
3 @TEN 41-44 12 HOU -----
4 MIN ----- 13 IND -----
5 BYE ----- 14 @GB -----
6 @PHI ----- 15 @ARI -----
7 @CHI ----- 16 ATL -----
8 SEA ----- 17 CHI -----
9 @JAC ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Stats | Roster
DET vs MIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Matthew Stafford 280,2
RB Joique Bell 20
RB Reggie Bush 60 5-30,1
WR Calvin Johnson 5-100,1
WR Golden Tate 2-30
TE Kellen Davis 2-20,1
TE Brandon Pettigrew 5-50,1
PK Matt Prater 2 FG 4 XP

Pregame Notes: The Lions have dropped their two road games but were competitive in both and should have won in Tennessee. This week they face the familiar Vikings with only the bye week waiting on the other side. This is a must win or the Lions will drop to 1-3 with a very tough four road match-ups in their next five games after the bye. Having already gone 0-2 away from Detroit, that will be brutal.

Matthew Stafford was knocked from the game last week but Shaun Hill came in and threw two scores while completing 10 of 13 for 172 yards. He is a more than capable backup. Stafford has the yardage each week but still only has one touchdown pass per game. He missed out a chance at nice stat padding in Tennessee but returns home where he last posted 378 yards and two scores on the Vikings. Stafford has a hamstring issue and is no lock to play but even if he cannot, the Lions are in good shape with Hill. Particularly at home against a very familiar opponent.

The big news last week was that Mikel Leshoure finally had his first game after missing his entire rookie season and then serving a suspension. He rushed for 100 yards and a score on 26 runs and added 34 yards on four catches. Granted he was only third straight back to do as much against the Titans this year but the important part was that he was given nearly all the carries while Kevin Smith never saw the field. Joique Bell provided a handful of carries to give Leshoure a breather but it was a nice coming out party and buys him plenty of playing time until he too falters or gets injured like all other Detroit backs.

Calvin Johnson remains the uber-stud here and comes off a big ten catch, 164 yard effort in Tennessee with one score. Titus Young finally provided more than one meaningless catch per game when he caught the Hail Mary carom before halftime but that is going to be hard to rely on. Megatron is the only constant here with the other receivers rising and falling in relation to how bad or good the secondary is.

Brandon Pettigrew has also offered some consistency for a tight end and comes off a season high eight catches for 61 yards but he has only one score so far.

The Lions have to win this game and should. Their defense will be tested by an improved Vikings team but the Lions have something new in Leshoure as well. More importantly, they are at home against a secondary they should be able to beat.

Gaining Fantasy Points DET 6 7 3 4 2 27
Preventing Fantasy Points MIN 16 1 22 24 20 10

QB Matthew Stafford, DET @CHI 0000031030 ***
Stafford hasn't thrown a road TD since Week 8, but a date with the dysfunctional Bears--whom he gutted for 390 and 2 back in Week 13--should get him back on course.
RB Joique Bell, DET @CHI 7012200000 ***
Bell gouged the Bears for 91 yards and two TDs just three weeks ago; in the two games since, Chicago has served up 419 combo yards and three TDs to opposing backs. Bell has accounted for 236 combo yards and a pair of scores in the two games since, so there's really nothing preventing him from a repeat of--maybe even improvement on--those solid fantasy stats.
WR Calvin Johnson, DET @CHI 00101202000 ***
Megatron has five TDs in his last three against the Bears, including 11-146-2 just three weeks ago. Unlikely that Chicago's secondary has improved enough since Thanksgiving to not consider Johnson one of the better fantasy plays of the week.
WR Golden Tate, DET @CHI 007901000 ***
Tate chipped in 8-89 against Chicago a couple weeks back, then last week scored his first TD in a game in which Calvin Johnson also played significant snaps. He's obviously not as reliable a fantasy play as Megatron, but he should still give you a fantasy helper here.
TE Eric Ebron, DET @CHI 002200000 ***
It's an incredibly favorable matchup, as no team has given up as many TE TDs as the Bears and it isn't even close. However, the Lions have exactly two TE TDs on the year and with the receivers set to have success it's unlikely they suddenly swerve and turn to Ebron.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Prater, DET @CHI 2244 ***
Inking Prater midseason has turned out to be the best move the Lions could have made; he has half the misses of his 2014 predecessors in twice as many games. More importantly, he's booted multiple treys in seven straight, has three consecutive games with double-digit points (including Week 13 against Chicago) and faces a Bears D that's surrendered at least seven points to every kicker they've faced.

CAR at ATL *NE at BUF *SD at KC *WAS at TB
*CIN at JAC *NO at GB *SEA at STL *CHI at DAL (MON)
*Updated *MIA at ARI *NYG at PHI *SF at NYJ Bye: IND, PIT

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