Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah vs. Matt “Notafanofanalytics” Kalil
Recently, Matt Kalil has made some headlines over his criticism of the analytics site Pro Football Focus. Now, I won’t go into the merits or flaws with PFF itself, I’ll only mention the common knowledge that the site’s grades have been quoted on NFL Network, ESPN, and a number of other reputable sources and is considered one of the frontrunners in football analytics. Matt Kalil doesn’t think much of their grading system, which sees him as one of the worst players in the NFL and easily one of the worst tackles. Kalil has somehow managed to allow 12 sacks all by himself this season. Even if PFF’s grading system was as flawed as Kalil claims it is, he’s having a terrible season and should be man enough to admit it.
Since he isn’t, he’ll need someone to do the humbling for him. No one was better at putting Matt Kalil to task than Ziggy Ansah was in their last match up. Ansah beat Kalil like a dirty carpet, notching 2.5 sacks and something like 400 QB hurries (estimated). The joke at the time was that Ansah broke Kalil. If the struggling LT’s performance has been any indication, that might actually be right. Ansah will square off against Kalil again, only this time he will be doing so at home with some of that Detroit noise to help him. On top of giving up the most sacks, Kalil is also the most penalized tackle in the game. This isn’t even really a “Hidden” match up, it’s only mentioned here because I expect it to be a hidden comedy in a football game. Or a tragedy, if you’re a Vikings fan.
Calvin Johnson vs. Xavier Rhodes
The Vikings have not been good this season, but it shouldn’t take away from individual achievements. Xavier Rhodes is quickly morphing into one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, and has been fantastic in the second half of this season for the Vikings. It isn’t a good thing, as a Lions fan, to see a divisional opponent land a good one, but it looks like Johnson will be finishing off his career having traded Tillman for Rhodes. Johnson has been on fire since coming back from his injury, with only a short road to go to get over 1,000 yards for the sixth time in his career.
Johnson and Rhodes won’t always line up across from one another. The addition of Tate, coupled with how Mike Zimmer runs his scheme, means that they’ll be the primary match up but not the only one. What I mean to say is that Johnson should eat against the Vikings secondary. It just won’t be against Rhodes, most likely. If it is, however, we can probably completely table the “Calvin on the decline” talks for another season or two.
Matthew Stafford vs. Mike Zimmer
Speaking of Mike Zimmer, this isn’t the first time the Lions have lined up across from a Mike Zimmer defense. The Bengals, then with Zimmer as defensive coordinator, beat the Lions 27-24 at Ford Field. It was a heart breaking loss in a sloppy game, something Lions fans have been more than familiar with in their time. Stafford had success on the stat sheet against the Bengals, but in the game he struggled with, well, the normal things he struggled with in 2013 (Footwork, poise, etc.). Zimmer has been working through a lot of issues on his team, but he’s been turning that defense around quickly, as expected, and he’s a strong defensive coach.
Stafford has been on fire the past couple of weeks. It was one thing to light up the floundering Chicago Bears the way that he did, it was another entirely to beat on the Buccaneers. Now I know, the Bucs have a worse record and are in contention to be the top pick in the 2015 draft. Their defense isn’t the reason why, however, and Stafford lit them up like a Christmas tree (Tis the season). The Vikings may be without several of their best defensive players in this match up, but I’m still betting this is going to be a tough match up for Stafford.
Glover Quin vs. Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater had a terrible outing against the Detroit Lions in their first match up. The 8 sacks are the most quoted statistic, but his 3 interceptions is equally telling. Bridgewater threw two interceptions to Tahir Whitehead and another to Glover Quin. Since that time, however, Bridgewater has been opening up his playing style and attempting more downfield passes. Those types of passes can mean more big plays, but against an opportunistic defense that can both bring pressure and cover it can mean more mistakes.
Quin is having a pro bowl season, though he’s unlikely to go this season due to name recognition. Still, this is a game where I expect Quin to just explode. He’s facing a rookie QB who had discovered his downfield throwing arm. He has Suh in the middle and Ansah facing a turnstile tackle. He has Slay playing lights out. Ultimately, Bridgewater is going to try to challenge the Lions safeties at some point in this game. I like Quin’s odds, and think a multiple interception game isn’t out of the question, even likely.
Jim Caldwell vs. Looking Ahead
Earlier this week, Aaron Rodgers mocked Stephen Tulloch’s injury, possibly while twirling his mustache and adjusting his monacle. Rodgers is a caricature for Lions fans, a cartoon. He’s in a league of his own in terms of talent and game play, but he’s just so darn unlikeable. That doesn’t prevent Rodgers from being a leading MVP candidate. And yet…the Detroit Lions and their Free Hurt defense straight up embarrassed Rodgers in their week 3 match up. That’s like Harry Potter kicking Voldemort in the junk at the beginning of the first book/movie. Doesn’t change the impression of the person…but it kinda does.
Jim Caldwell, by all indications, is paying attention to each game as they come. He’s preached a week to week mentality that the team has seemingly bought into. That said, it’s difficult to buy into the week to week thing as a fan. It HAS to be tough as a player not to peek a little, especially when there’s a cackling scarecrow insulting your teammates out there. Can Caldwell keep the team focused as they head into this week’s game?
Adrian Peterson…er…Jerick McKinnon? No wait… Matt Asiata vs. Free Hurt