For the first time since 2014, the Vikings will go into a game without Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator. He stepped down this week, giving way to Pat Shurmur as the new head of the offense. Will this spell yet another disaster for the Vikings, or will it elevate their play?
We’ll find out on Sunday when they host the Lions (1 p.m. ET on FOX), but there’s a better chance Shurmur will have the latter effect on the offense. He’ll get his first shot against the Lions, who at 4-4 have been surprisingly good. Matthew Stafford is a fringe MVP candidate despite being without RB Ameer Abdullah for most of the season.
Having lost two straight, the Vikings will be motivated to avoid a third consecutive loss. Because of that, among other reasons, they will move to 6-2 with a win over the Lions.
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There will be a sense of urgency
During the Vikings’ two-game skid, the defense hasn’t been the problem. It’s mostly been the offense’s fault. However, there will be a sense of urgency on both sides of the ball. For the defense, it understands it needs to bail out the offense when it sputters. The defense needs to make plays and force turnovers, giving Bradford additional possessions.
This will be the case on Sunday as the defense will come out motivated, looking to end the losing streak. The offense will feel the same way, but it will show more on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota will play with greater toughness and urgency against the Lions.
Should the Vikings lose this game, they’d be in danger of surrendering the spot they've held atop the NFC North since Week 1. That’ll happen only if the Packers also win this week, but the Vikings need to cushion their lead in the division, not surrender it. This team will be motivated and will refuse to lose three straight.
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Minnesota will get pressure and sacks on Matthew Stafford
The Lions don’t have a terrible offensive line, but it’s not great. Detroit has allowed 19 sacks, which are the seventh most in the NFL. Now, they get to face the relentless pass rush of the Vikings, which is sure to drive that number up even more. Everson Griffen, Brian Robinson and Danielle Hunter are dynamic rushers on the edges while Linval Joseph is a body-mover on the inside. The Vikings went on a bit of a cold spell the past two weeks with just one sack, but they’ll turn it around.
Add in the fact that the Lions have one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL and this could be a huge game for Minnesota’s defensive line. They’ll be able to pin their ears back more often than not with Detroit having the eighth-fewest rushing attempts in the league. And when they do run the ball, it will be tough sledding. The Vikings have allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards this season.
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New scheme on offense
The Vikings watched their offensive coordinator Norv Turner step down from the position out of the blue. There was reportedly a difference of philosophies with coach Mike Zimmer. It might seem like a disaster for the Vikings, but they may be better with Pat Shurmur guiding the offense than Turner.
Zimmer’s offense was built for a team with a great offensive line, a big No. 1 receiver and a power running game. The Vikings have none of those things. Shurmur helped Bradford set the rookie record for completions as his coordinator in St. Louis back in 2010, and then guided him to a career year last season in Philadelphia. He’ll bring a quicker passing game and more of a West Coast style to the Vikings, which will benefit them greatly.
Bradford will be able to get the ball out of his hands quickly with shorter crossing routes, thus bailing out the terrible offensive line. This will make a huge difference for the offense, which has struggled mightily all season, but most notably in recent weeks. This could be the game that gets them back on track.