This weekend’s Vikings game against the Detroit Lions is starting to have the feel of a pre-written script for a horror movie set to torment the team and its fans. And it might have the potential to be a violent slasher.
If it weren’t bad enough that the so-called “Vegas Experts” are picking the 5-7 Lions to beat the 10-2 Vikings, but they’ve now flipped the betting lines from the Vikings initially being favored by 1.5 points to now the Lions having an assumed 2.5 point advantage. A full three points swing when there isn’t really an injury update to a key cog that would offer reservations is pretty substantial.
Still, it has the potential to be even worse for the Vikings, and it surrounds a completely unproven rookie wide receiver.
Last week, the Lions first-round draft choice Jameson Williams saw his first NFL action in the Lions blowout victory over the Jaguars. Seeing live reps for the first time since being activated after recovery from an ACL tear, Williams got in for 8 snaps last week, seeing one target for zero receptions. According to the Lions coaches, though, Williams is set to see increased reps and increased focus this weekend versus the Vikings, and it’s likely to come in the deep passing game benefiting from his crazy speed and size.
“We just wanted to get him out there (last week),” Lions head coach Dan Campbell told reporters this week. “Moving forward, it’ll be, ‘OK, we’ll get him a little more involved now,’ so we’ll have some things for him. He’ll play more than he did last week.”
Ready to up the horror factor?
In late-week news, the Vikings star safety Harrison Smith was listed as “questionable” for the game on Sunday after a neck injury held him out of practice this week. Smith is second in the NFL with five interceptions on the season and is one of the team’s most veteran players and leaders.
Not scary enough for you yet?
Remember back to the draft, and you’ll recall that the Lions acquired Williams via an intra-division trade between the Lions and the Vikings. The Vikings would later select Lewis Cine thanks to the deal, while the Lions targeted the injured Williams with the move and snatched him with the No. 12 pick. Before injuring his knee in the 2022 National Championship game, Williams was projected to be the top wide receiver in the 2022 class.
This wasn’t the only intra-division trade that landed a high-end receiving threat with a division rival after a deal with the Vikings. The Green Bay Packers also moved up in the 2nd round via trade with the Vikings to select WR Christian Watson out of NDSU. Watson has been the league’s leading scorer the last month, scoring 8 touchdowns over the Packers last four games.
For a fanbase that already has the right to crab about handing Watson to a division rival, seeing Williams explode against the Vikings this weekend might be too much.
While the Vikings didn’t exactly turn the cold shoulder on Williams in the 2022 draft by trading out of the spot where he was taken, he could see it that way if he wanted to. I wouldn’t put it past Dan Campbell to serve that up there as some extra motivation for the young wideout this weekend. After watching Hard Knocks earlier this season, I get the idea that Campbell could get his players to run through a brick wall if he wanted to, so angling this one against the Vikings could certainly be in play.
We’ll have to wait to see how the game and the Williams matchup play out this weekend, but for a fanbase that is still struggling to get over a trade that their team made all the way back in 1989, second-guessing moves the team makes comes natural to us. A script that shows the Lions favored, Williams out for revenge, and the 10-win Vikings stubbing their toe along their way to the playoffs is just the kind of horror that we’re all sort of expecting to play out Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.
Let’s hope that it doesn’t, but none of us will be surprised if it does.
Aj Mansour is a member of The Power Trip Morning Show on KFAN and works for iHeartMedia and the Vikings Radio Network. He’s also a senior writer for VikingsTerritory.com. Be sure to follow him on social media for the latest Vikings news and big opinions – @AjKFAN