Although, it is the Lions, so it could be the opening stumble towards another irrelevant season.
But it's too early for gripes and draft predictions in Motown, where the two are year-round activities. The 2013 season, as we say every year in Detroit, has a chance to be different. So let's take a look at the game-determining factors and one man's prognostication on how it all plays out.
Keys To a Lions Victory1. Contain Adrian Peterson
Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's wrong. The Vikings are a one-dimensional team that heavily relies on their all-world running back to drive the offense. While that can be a sound strategy, the Vikings' inability to pass has cost them wins in the past.
And that deficiency will continue to do so going forward.
There are no indications that third-year quarterback Christian Ponder has taken a step forward, meaning Minnesota could easily finish with a well below-average passing attack again (28th last year).2. Dominate Along the Defensive Line
The Lions responded well against the Buffalo Bills, only missing three tackles after whiffing on 23 attempts in the prior three games. That's a promising statistic, but those successful tackles mostly came against backups.
The fact is that the starting linebackers were horrendous last year. They combined to whiff on 44 tackles in 2012. Granted, the departed Justin Durant is included in that group, but his replacement didn't fare much better, missing one of nine attempts.
That's a long-winded way of saying the defensive line must dominate. Luckily, especially since rookie defensive end Ezekiel Ansah should be ready to go, the Lions have the personnel to get it done. If you go back and watch the preseason tape, Detroit consistently stuffed the run with the front four. If they can continue that trend, Minnesota will be hard pressed to move the ball.3. Keep Defensive Ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison At Bay
"Here the writer goes again. Tell us something we don't know!"
I can already see you pounding out disparaging comments about my intelligence. But don't blame me because of your extreme fan intellect (Yes, I will pander to fans for clicks! Share with a friend!).
But seriously, bright-eyed starting tackles Riley Reiff and Jason Fox will not be easing into their duties. No, this will be more like a baptism by fire. Defensive ends Allen and Robison combined for 20 sacks and 87 quarterback hurries last season. However, the starting cornerbacks are either average or young, meaning quarterback Matthew Stafford should be able to attack downfield with Calvin Johnson and exploit the seams with the tight ends. But he has to be standing upright to deliver those throws.
Pivotal Matchup: RB Reggie Bush vs. Vikings Linebackers
One of the more enticing matchups for the Lions will be recent signee Bush against the Minnesota linebackers. Not just in the running game, but in the passing game as well.
As mentioned above, Stafford will be looking for Johnson, but most of the coverage will be shaded towards the All-Pro wideout. If the preseason is any indication, Stafford will be dumping it off to Bush early and often.
That's not as dire as some believe. Bush is a great open-field player that can make people miss, and the Vikings linebackers will indulge him, as their starters failed to connect on 37 tackles last year.
This all means that Bush will take those checkdowns and turn them into first downs, keeping Peterson off the field.
The above should have given you an indication of which way I was leaning. The Vikings required a Herculean effort from Peterson in 2012 and counting on a repeat performance would be foolhardy.
The Lions defensive line won't annihilate its offensive counterpart because the Vikings are too talented. However, they will win the war with fresh, able bodies, leaving the game in Ponder's hands. And in a faceoff between Stafford and Ponder, I'll take the Lions signal-caller every time and twice on Sunday.
See what I did there? Okay. I'll stop now.
Final Score: Detroit 31, Minnesota 14
Brandon Alisoglu is a Michigan native and has been covering the Detroit Lions for two years. He has been published at Yahoo, Bleacher Report, CNN and other websites. He also co-hosts a podcast called Lions Central Radio with Nick Kostora that can be found on ITunes, YouTube and Stitcher.
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