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NFL Preview - Detroit (7-8) at Minnesota (4-10-1)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - "Black Monday" looms for both Detroit's Jim Schwartz and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier.

They two embattled head coaches could be leading their respective teams for the final time on Sunday as the Vikings close Mall of America Field by hosting the disappointing Lions.

Minnesota has beaten Detroit more than any other opponent in Metrodome history, holding a 23-7 record against the Lions since the building opened in 1982.

The Vikings in fact have a winning mark against each of their division opponents at Mall of America Field, with a record of 20-11 against the Chicago Bears and a 16-15 mark against the Green Bay Packers. Things have turned sour recently under Frazier, however, and the team will be finishing up its second dismal campaign in three full seasons with the embattled mentor at the helm.

Sunday's contest will be the 250th regular-season game in the stadium and the 260th overall, including playoffs. The Vikings hold an impressive 167-92 overall mark in the dome. Frazier, though, is just 20-33-1 as the Vikes' head coach.

"For our players, it's important that they focus on the task," Frazier said when talking about his employment prospects after Sunday's game. "That's what I'm asking them to do, and I need to do the same thing. It's very, very important if you want to have a chance to win these games down the stretch that I stay focused on what's involved with leading our team, and I want them to follow. It's important I handle it the right way."

Minnesota will be moving to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium for the next two seasons as their new home is being built.

The Lions' Schwartz also finds himself in a difficult spot. Many feel Detroit is the most talented team in the NFC North but the team imploded down the stretch and failed to take advantage of the extended absences of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Chicago's Jay Cutler.

The Lions have dropped five of their last six, the latest of which, a 23-20 overtime setback to the New York Giants in Week 16, knocked them out of playoff contention for the second straight season.

Josh Brown's 45-yard field goal midway through the extra frame officially eliminated the fading Lions and his three field goals in all helped the Giants prevail despite mustering just two first downs and 57 total yards in the second half.

New York overcame its offensive woes by scoring 17 points off three Detroit turnovers, none bigger than Will Hill's 38-yard touchdown return off a Matt Stafford interception that tied the game at 20-20 with 4:57 left in regulation.

Stafford threw a pair of picks while putting up 222 yards on 25-of-42 passing in the loss, the fifth in six games for Detroit in which the Lions blew a fourth-quarter lead in each.

"This is very disappointing," said Schwartz. "It's hard to take when every game is close. That's the thing that makes it difficult."

Joique Bell was one bright spot in the Lions' latest frustrating defeat, tallying 154 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown that included a 10-catch, 63-yard effort.

The Vikings seemed to be heading in the right direction after finally giving up on Christian Ponder at quarterback and moving to veteran Matt Cassel but that came off the rails in Cincinnati last week as Andy Dalton torched one of the game's worst defenses in a 42-14 Bengals win.

Cassel was held to 114 yards passing, one score to Jarius Wright and three interceptions on 13-of-27 passing for the Vikings, who failed to maintain momentum from their 48-point performance against the Eagles the previous week.

"We really stunk it up today. This was a disappointing loss," offered Cassel.

Adrian Peterson returned after a one-game absence due to a foot injury and was limited to 45 yards on 11 carries. Rookie star Cordarrelle Patterson added a rushing touchdown in defeat.

The Lions opened the season with a 34-24 home win over the Vikings at Ford Field, but they have lost 14 of 15 in Minneapolis.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Lions have a dismal minus-15 turnover differential over the last six games, playing into the undisciplined tag the team has earned under Schwartz.

Stafford's inconsistency and continued poor mechanics have been at the forefront of the slump. He's thrown 11 of his 19 interceptions over the past five weeks and the current thinking is that Detroit needs a coach adept at handling quarterbacks to get the most out of the former No. 1 overall pick.

Minnesota doesn't have the secondary to take advantage of Stafford's mistakes, though. The Vikings give up am embarrassing 408.0 yards per game thanks in large part to the problems on the back end, a further black mark on Frazier's resume because he is a defensive coach who started his NFL coaching career handling defensive backs.

Many believe Frazier's reliance on the Tampa-2 scheme is an antiquated philosophy and one which simply can't succeed in today's NFL.

The only real reason to watch this game -- the brilliance of Lions' receiver Calvin Johnson and Peterson -- also probably won't be in play.

Peterson is hoping to play in the Metrodome finale but he's been severely limited with a sprained right foot and he's unlikely to stick around long even if he gives it a go.

Johnson, meanwhile, is battling with nagging knee and ankle issues and could be shelved.

"His knee was bothering him and his ankle was a problem," Schwartz said. "We were trying to use him in the red zone and on third downs, but he wasn't close to 100 percent."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

This could and probably should serve as the swan song for both coaches. It's hard to justify what Frazier, a supposed defensive mind, has done with the Vikings' defense. On the other hand Schwartz deserves some credit for building an 0-16 team back into relevance but Stafford is regressing under his watch and the Lions are becoming yearly underachievers.

The final score here is irrelevant but give Minnesota the edge because they usually handle Detroit in the Gopher State.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vikings 24, Lions 17

12/27 11:50:36 ET

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  • ACC: Syracuse at NC State

    Saturday at 12:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Florida at Kentucky

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Pac 12: Stanford at Arizona

    Saturday at 4:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: NC State at Clemson

    Tonight at 9:00 on WRAL-FM

  • ACC: Duke vs. Wake Forest

    Tomorrow at 8:00 pm on 620am

  • Big Ten: Wisconsin at Minnesota

    Thursday at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NBA: Dallas at Portland

    Thursday at 9:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHI 5
CAR 2
Final
SAV 49
NCCU 62
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAL
7:00pm Tonight
GT
UNC
9:00pm Tonight
CLEM
NCSU
Final
MIA 7
FIU 2
 
Final
DET 12
FLASO 2
 
1:05pm Today
DET
BAL
 
1:05pm Today
MIA
MIAFLA
 
1:05pm Today
PHI
NYY
 
1:05pm Today
BOS
NEASTERN
 
1:07pm Today
TOR
PIT
 
3:05pm Today
CIN
CLE
 
3:05pm Today
OAK
SFG
 
4:05pm Today
BOS
BOSTONCOLL
 
5:10pm Tonight
ARI
ASU
 
Final
PHI 103
TOR 114
Final
BRK 110
GSW 108
Final
MIA 115
PHO 98
Final
MIN 105
LAC 110
Final
DAL 102
NOP 93
7:00pm Tonight
CLE
BOS
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAL
7:00pm Tonight
NYK
SAC
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
HOU
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
UTA
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
WAS
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
MIL
Final
TEX 61
BAY 59
Final
SYR 47
UVA 59
Final
SHSU 76
CARK 49
 
Final
NWST 92
SELA 79
 
Final
NCAT 67
COOK 50
 
Final
HOW 61
NORST 59
 
Final
DELST 85
HAMP 75
 
Final
STEPH 83
INCWORD 62
 
Final
MCNST 70
LAM 69
 
Final
NO 79
NICST 89
 
Final
SAV 49
NCCU 62
 
Final
ALAAM 75
TXSOU 77
 
Final
VT 59
BC 66
Final
MVSU 66
GRAM 62
 
Final
ISU 77
OKLA 70
Final
ALAST 65
PVU 67
 
Final
ARKPB 64
JST 62
 
7:00pm Tonight
UMO
AKR
 
7:00pm Tonight
NAVY
ARMY
 
7:00pm Tonight
BST
EMICH
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUT
GEOR
7:00pm Tonight
IND
IOWA
7:00pm Tonight
FLGC
JVU
 
7:00pm Tonight
USCU
KNST
 
7:00pm Tonight
BGU
KSU
 
7:00pm Tonight
NKENTUCKY
LIP
 
7:00pm Tonight
HC
GHND
 
7:00pm Tonight
RUTG
MD
 
7:00pm Tonight
GT
UNC
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
OHIO
 
7:00pm Tonight
ALA
MISS
7:00pm Tonight
DAY
RIU
7:00pm Tonight
CMICH
TOL
 
7:00pm Tonight
DET
YOUNG
7:30pm Tonight
UNF
STET
 
8:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
HOUB
 
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
NEOM
 
8:00pm Tonight
NILL
WMICH
 
8:00pm Tonight
ILLCH
WRST
9:00pm Tonight
MIZZ
AUB
9:00pm Tonight
UGA
KENT
9:00pm Tonight
NW
MICH
9:00pm Tonight
CLEM
NCSU
9:00pm Tonight
UF
TEXAM
9:00pm Tonight
KU
WVU
9:15pm Tonight
CREI
VILL
 
Final
NYR 4
NAS 1
Final
CHI 5
CAR 2
Final
SJS 4
MON 0
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
NAS
 
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
WAS
 
7:30pm Tonight
TAM
BUF
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
TOR
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
OTT
 
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
NYI
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARI
ANA
 
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
LOS
 
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
SJS