It’s unlikely that the Lions play like “the Lions” when the Minnesota Vikings host the Lions on Sunday.
Detroit arrives in Minneapolis this weekend, owners of a 1-1 record and an offense that is turning heads.
Plopped on the world’s radar by HBO’s Hard Knocks, Detroit is living up to — and exceeding — early expectations in 2022. The Lions defense is still a grotesque creature, but the offense is humming, at least according to the numbers.
Led by the scrappy-as-hell Dan Campbell, the Lions have taken on the persona of their head coach and sprinted to a rip-roaring start on offense. Not convinced? Glance at the metrics:
Detroit Lions Offense,
Thru Week 2 of 2022:
TD Scored = 1st
Yards per Rush = 1st
Points Scored = 2nd
Yards Gained = 4th
EPA/Play = 7th
Offense DVOA = 8th
And this damage is all done on the right shoulder of a productive game-manager quarterback, Jared Goff. The ex-Los Angeles Rams signal-caller ranks around the 19th-best in the NFL among quarterbacks at the moment, but Detroit’s offense is racking up points nevertheless.
The star of the show is running back D’Andre Swift — with a side dish of a man named Amon-Ra St. Brown. Swift is slicing and dicing defenses to the tune of 10 yards per carry. Yes — 10 years per rushing attempt. When Swift touches the ball, he gets a first down, mathematically speaking. Through two weeks, his pace is historic:
Most Yds per Carry,
Thru Week 2 of a Season,
(min. 20 att)
1. Jim Brown = 11.3 (1963)
2. C.J. Spiller = 10.1 (2012)
t3. D’Andre Swift = 10.0 (2022)
t3. Tiki Barber = 10.0 (2000)
4. Raymont Harris = 9.5 (1997)
5. Verl Lillywhite = 9.1 (1951)
6. Aaron Jones = 9.1 (2022)
Couple Swift’s ball-carrying terrorism with the Vikings 32nd-ranked rushing defense DVOA, and the purple team could have a problem. That’s right — per rushing defense DVOA, Minnesota’s defense is the worst in the world.
After that, if Ed Donatell’s defense slows down the Lions rushing attack, it must combat upstart Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. He’s tabulated 180 receiving yards in two games, along with 3 touchdowns. The 180 receiving yards rank 10th in the NFL, while the 3 receiving paydirts are second behind Stefon Diggs.
Assume, for a moment, that Minnesota clamps Swift and St. Brown. Then, T.J. Hockenson is in the middle of the field, and he’s a Top 10 TE. The Lions also employ the league’s sixth-best offensive line, per Pro Football Focus.
Finally, the Vikings could be without safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Andrew Booth, listed on the initial Week 3 injury report as “did not practice.” A shootout might be on the docket for Sunday.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).