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
WR Greg Jennings 5-60,1
WR Jerome Simpson 4-60,1
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 Matt Cassel, MIN DET 0000022011 ***
Christian Ponder launched the Vikings' forgettable 2013 season with 236 and 1 against the Lions; now Cassel gets to stake his claim to a roster spot (starting job?) in 2014 with a by-comparison outing in the Metrodome finale. The Lions have allowed only two passing scores in the past four games, so it'll be a stiffer test than you might think for Cassel.
RB Matt Asiata, MIN DET 400000000 *
Right now Adrian Peterson appears to be the healthiest running back on the Vikings roster, but Asiata may work his way back into the mix as well. Still, if Peterson is active he'll get the carries and Asiata will have only memories of his one shining three-touchdown moment a couple weeks back. UPDATE: With Peterson listed as doubtful and Toby Gerhart out, Asiata is expected to get the start this week. He scored thrice a couple weeks back under similar circumstances, but against a stout Detroit defensive line he'll need the offense to set him up with short opportunities to be an effective fantasy back.
WR Greg Jennings, MIN DET 0081001000 ***
Jerome Simpson had the big day the last time these teams got together, but much has changed since: Matt Cassel is the quarterback, Jennings his favorite receiver, and explosive rookie Cordarrelle Patterson is seeing more looks as well. Toss in Jarius Wright and it's a crowded house--though target-wise Jennings still tends to be the patriarch.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN DET 3013600000 **
The Vikings continue to find ways to get the ball into the hands of the explosive Patterson. He's approaching the franchise kickoff return record, has a couple touchdown runs of late, and last week led the team in targets as well. He's a threat any time he touches the ball, to the point that he at least warrants fantasy consideration.
WR Jarius Wright, MIN DET 003500000 ***
Wright has been a surprise contributor in the Vikings' passing game, but it's impossible to bank on him being productive when he's at best the team's third option.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Blair Walsh, MIN DET 1122 ***
Walsh averages two points more per game at home, and he's facing a Lions' defense that has allowed more points to kickers than any other team in the Metrodome's swan song. Expect him to get ample opportunity to kick the Lions while they're down, as well as try some lengthy field goals in a game with no playoff ramifications whatsoever.

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
RB Mikel Leshoure 60,1 2-10
WR Calvin Johnson 5-100,1
WR Kevin Ogletree 3-50,1
WR Golden Tate 2-30
TE Brandon Pettigrew 5-50,1

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 @MIN 0000024012 ***
Stafford kicked off the season with 357 and 2 against the Vikings; since then Minnesota has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks of any team in the league while Stafford has 4,430 yards and 28 touchdowns. Nothing to play for doesn't mean Stafford won't get a chance to up those numbers in a very favorable matchup.
RB Joique Bell, DET @MIN 4012200000 **
Bell scored twice as the change of pace guy in the earlier meeting with the Vikings; he also chipped in 67 receiving yards. And last week, with Reggie Bush struggling, Bell added 154 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. So he's a threat, especially when the matchup is favorable like this one is.
RB Reggie Bush, DET @MIN 5004200000 *
Bush gouged the Vikings for 90 rushing yards, 101 receiving yards, and a touchdown way back in Week 1. It's a road game but it's still a fast track and a dome, and the Vikings are still giving up big yardage to pass-catching backs. Maybe the fireworks won't be quite as big as in Detroit, but there should still be fireworks.
WR Kris Durham, DET @MIN 003401000 **
Durham has parlayed his familiarity with Matthew Stafford into an occasional fantasy helper, and secondary receivers often have success against the Vikings. Hopefully you don't have to dig this deep into the depth chart for fantasy help this week.
WR Golden Tate, DET @MIN 005600000 ***
Tate scored twice in the earlier meeting with St. Louis, but he hasn't topped two catches in either of the Seahawks' last two games so he's a difficult fantasy play at best.
WR Calvin Johnson, DET @MIN 00000000 *
We'll write a proof for Einstein's theory of relativity before we figure out how the Vikings held Megatron to 4-37 back in Week 1. Over the past month Minnesota has served up 249 & 2 to Alshon Jeffery, 92 & 1 to Marlon Brown, 195 & 1 to DeSean Jackson, and 97 & 2 to A.J. Green; aside from bailing due to injury there's no logical way Megatron dogs fantasy owners again this week. UPDATE: What was that we were saying about injury? Megatron did not practice all week, and while he's listed as questionable there is talk he's played his last snap of 2013. That makes him a risky fantasy play this week.
TE Joseph Fauria, DET @MIN 003201000 ***
With Brandon Pettigrew hurt, Fauria saw a season-high seven targets last week. Good timing, as he'll now face a Vikings defense that's allowed the second-most touchdowns to the position and let Fauria find the end zone in the earlier matchup, as well as four TE TDs in the previous three games.

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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