Week 1: Vikings-Lions matchup analysis

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Minnesota Vikings (0-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, at Ford Field - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
*Keys to the game: Minnesota swept last season's meetings, including a 171-yard, two-TD performance by Adrian Peterson Nov. 11. The Vikings added Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson -- ideally to punish defenses that crowd the line of scrimmage to make Peterson dance and wait for an opening. That approach hasn't always worked -- the St. Louis Rams used an extreme nine-man box -- but clearly the gamble is to make QB Christian Ponder move the ball through the air. Minnesota's offensive line returns intact after all five starters made 16 starts in 2012. They'll double-team Ndamukong Suh and take their chances with the rest. Detroit, which signed Reggie Bush to spark its running game, remains a pass-first offense. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is coming off an NFL-record 1,964-yard receiving season and draws cornerback Chris Cook, a 6-2, 212-pound veteran who has shown well in this matchup in the past. Detroit has three new starters on its offensive line and wants to set a physical tone to avoid falling behind, as was often the case in 2012. However, quarterback Matthew Stafford, Bush and Johnson were on the field together for just two series the entire preseason.
*Matchup to watch - Vikings DE Jared Allen vs. Lions LT Riley Reiff: Allen could be forgiven for not recognizing Reiff, given he has never faced a Lions left tackle at Ford Field other than Jeff Backus. Allen has six consecutive seasons with at least 10 sacks. Reiff is starting his first game at left tackle in the NFL.
*Player spotlight - Lions DT Nick Fairley: The former first-round pick is coming of age, and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said it will be difficult to ignore him this season.
*Fast facts: Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was 10-for-10, setting an NFL record, on field-goal attempts of 50-plus yards last season. ... The Lions have lost eight of the past 11 meetings at Ford Field.
Detroit's splashy offense can score with anyone, but is the Lions' defense improved enough to contain a more balance attack from the Vikings? Adrian Peterson and newcomer Greg Jennings push Minnesota over the top.
*Our pick: Vikings 26-23

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