Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers discuss the Lions' loss, Golden Tate's touchdown that wasn't, and the upcoming game at Minnesota. Detroit News
The Lions were a yard away from being the lone undefeated team remaining in the NFC.
But Jim Caldwell and Co. aren’t much for dwelling on the past and playing the “woe-is-me” card, especially with a divisional date with the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium awaiting.
Minnesota and Detroit have each swept the season series the past two years, and both sit at 2-1 heading into the Week 4 clash. With the Vikings and Lions expected to jostle the Packers for NFC North supremacy, gaining an early edge will go a long way in the race for first place.
Here are 10 things to watch in Sunday’s divisional opener (1 p.m. FOX/760 WJR).
1. Pick up the pieces: How will the Lions respond following last weekend’s controversial ending? If history tells us one thing it’s that the team has struggled to recover from a gut-punch loss. Following the infamous batted ball call in Seattle in 2015, the Lions were dominated by the Cardinals, 42-17, in a game where Matthew Stafford ended up getting benched after his third interception. Later that same season, the Lions fell to the St. Louis Rams, 21-14, one week after the Packers’ walk-off win on Aaron Rodgers’ “Fail Mary.”
2. Shots fired: If left tackle Greg Robinson needed an added reason to be fired up for Sunday’s matchup, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen certainly provided the kindling wood. Griffen singled out Robinson and questioned his competitiveness by calling him “pretty lazy.” While Robinson has scuffled filling in for the injured Taylor Decker, he’ll get his chance step his game up and make Griffen eat his words.
3. Will Davis return? Without rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis (concussion) last week, the Falcons ran rampant on the Lions’ defense, particularly up the middle where Davis patrols. The first-round pick was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup. If he’s able to play, it would provide a major boost in Detroit’s efforts to slow Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who ranks second in the league with 288 yards rushing.
4. Digging in: The Vikings rank second in passing (285.3 yards) and feature the league’s top receiving tandem in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. The one matchup that will likely garner the most attention will be cornerback Darius Slay trying to shut down Diggs, who leads the league with four touchdown receptions.
5. Waynes world: Vikings cornerback and former Michigan State standout Trae Waynes is in his first season as a full-time starter. With fellow cornerback Xavier Rhodes likely shadowing Marvin Jones Jr. throughout the game, Waynes will have the unenviable task of chasing around Golden Tate.
6. Rally cats: Two of Detroit’s fourth-quarterback comeback last year came at Minnesota’s expense. The first encounter ended with Matt Prater’s 58-yard overtime-forcing field goal and Tate’s flipping, winning 28-yard touchdown. Then three weeks later, a late interception by Slay led to Prater’s winning kick as time expired. Could another thrilling finish be in store?
7. Record-setter: With quarterback Sam Bradford ruled out for Sunday, backup Case Keenum will get the start for the third straight game. That’s good news, right? Last season with the Los Angeles Rams, Keenum turned in his best performance of the year against the Lions, throwing for 321 yards and three touchdowns on 27-for-32 passing in a 31-28 loss. But the most memorable part of that game was Keenum’s 19 consecutive completions, which set a franchise record.
8. Jonesing for more: TJ Jones has made the most out of his limited opportunities this season as the No. 4 receiver, catching five of the seven passes thrown his way. Jones could be in for a larger timeshare after rookie Kenny Golladay (hamstring) missed consecutive practices, which doesn’t bode well for his availability.
9. Old friend: After a quiet outing last week, defensive end Ziggy Ansah will look to make some noise against a familiar face. He’ll line up across from ex-Lion Reilly Reiff, who hasn’t allowed a sack or quarterback hit this season. Ansah (knee) is listed as questionable and could line up for only half the defensive plays like he did a week ago.
10. Playing takeaway: After picking off just 10 passes last season, the Lions already have seven interceptions, the second-most in the NFL, and lead the league with a plus-6 turnover margin. The Vikings have turned the ball over just once and are one of five teams that have yet to throw an interception. Something has got to give.