The Detroit Lions’ slim playoff chances — FanDuel, the MotorCity Casinbo sportsbook partner, had them at +360 before the Matthew Stafford COVID-19 news broke — are in danger of withering to nothing this Sunday when they head to Minnesota for a tilt with the Vikings.
This is a tough matchup made tougher with wide receiver Kenny Golladay expected to sit with a hip injury and with Stafford hoping to make a Hollywood-esqe mad dash to the field after clearing COVID-19 protocols before gametime.
Stafford, for all the drama, is expected to play. According to an Instagram video posted by his wife Kelly, Stafford was exposed to someone with the virus Monday but does not have it himself. If he gets five straight days of negative tests, he’ll be able to take the team’s snaps Sunday.
But he’ll almost certainly be doing it without Golladay, who isn’t practicing due to a hip injury sustained last week against the Colts.
As for Stafford? This is the second time this year he’s been placed on the reserve/COVID list. Back on July 31, the quarterback tested positive, but it was later determined to be a false positive.
Sportsbooks not sold on the Vikings
When it comes to the game itself, here’s the interesting part: Before the Stafford news broke Wednesday afternoon, and even with Golladay on the sidelines, the sportsbooks were initially hesitant to go all-in on the underachieving Vikings. That’s despite their impressive showing last week, knocking off the Packers in Green Bay.
In fact, the Vikings were “just” a 4-point home favorite before the Stafford news hit. Once the news broke — as first reported by ESPN — the game was pulled off the board.
Before that, however, the best odds on the Lions getting the points was with FoxBet (paired with the Odawa Casino Resort and Sportsbook) at +100. On the moneyline, the Lions were +175 underdogs, and that number was found at BetMGM, partnered with the MGM Grand Detroit.
Assuming Stafford plays, the lines should bounce back to where they were. But with the uncertainty, we’re not expecting the sportsbooks to repost the game until there’s clarity on the Lions QB situation. Without Stafford, and with Chase Daniel behind center, the Vikings would certainly be favored by more than a touchdown.
Hoping for a Swift turnaround
As for the X’s and O’s? Well, on the assumption Stafford plays, it’s probably instructive to take a peek back at weeks 1 and 2 — when Golladay was out due to injury — and see what the Lions brain trust schemed up. And when we say “schemed,” we mean how they failed to do a whole heck of a lot.
In week 1, the Lions fell to the Bears 27-23, with Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson pacing the team with five receptions each. Week 2 saw the Lions get manhandled by the Packers in Green Bay, with D’Andre Swift leading with five receptions out of the backfield.
Clearly, not having Golladay impedes what the Lions want to do, which is — and sorry for the simplistic take here — get the ball to Golladay. Before his zero-catch, injury-ruined dud against the Colts last week, he was coming off back-to-back 100-yard games (and, not so incidentally, Lions victories).
As for Swift? His name matches his speed on the field, but not the mental acuity of the Lions coaching staff. Clearly the most dynamic offensive weapon the Lions have — especially with Golladay on the bench — Swift is somehow averaging only 9.1 touches a game. Scheming the ball into his hands should be Plan 1A this Sunday, but if history is our guide, it won’t be.
With Golladay out, moving the ball against the Vikings isn’t going to be as easy as it otherwise would’ve been, and Swift seems like the obvious answer. Why the coaching staff insists on giving 83*-year-old Adrian Peterson carries over Swift is a question for the ages (*estimated).
Additionally, Marvin Jones — despite not showing in the two games Golladay missed earlier this season — has been utilized more of late, and the Vikings secondary isn’t particularly fearsome. Perhaps Stafford will lean on the veteran? It’s probably worth a peek at Jones’ receptions, yards, and touchdown props when they are released. They might prove to be good value plays.
Dalvin Cook looking to feast
On the Vikings side of the ball … look out. Dalvin Cook is healthy and single-handedly beat the Packers last week … and the Lions rush defense is giving up 130 yards a game … and Cook ran through the Lions defense twice last year without pause.
So Cook is going to be an issue.
And while Kirk Cousins’ inconsistent play is worth noting, it’s also worth pointing out the Lions didn’t have an answer for him last year as he threw for 580 yards and five touchdowns in the Vikings’ two victories. Additionally, the Lions will be without Trey Flowers on the defensive line.
Oh, and head coach Matt Patricia? Hasn’t beaten the Vikings yet in his tenure as head coach, and the Lions have been outscored 113-55 in the four games against Minnesota under Patricia’s watch.
Of course, this being the NFL — “any given Sunday” and such — who knows what might happen? But, yeah, in case you were wondering, before the game was taken off the board, the Vikings were -110 laying the four points everywhere and -200 on the moneyline. The over/under for the game sat at 53.5.
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