In another strange week in what has been the strangest season in NFL history, one thing has not changed for the Detroit Lions.
As they hit the halfway point in the season in today's road game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions have an opportunity to get in position to make a run at their first playoff berth since 2016.
The key word is "opportunity," and it's present for the Lions based on the fact that the next four teams they play – including the Vikings – have won a combined eight games.
The Vikings are 2-5 after last week's upset road win over the Green Bay Packers.
The next three opponents and their records are as follows:
- Home vs. Washington, 2-5, with a win last week that snapped a five-game losing streak.
- At Carolina, 3-5, with a three-game losing streak.
- Home on Thanksgiving Day vs. Houston, 1-6, with two straight losses.
It couldn't be lined up much better for the Lions, but they have to take advantage of it.
That seems strange, but it has to start today with a win over the Vikings to get to 4-4.
Backup plan: Chase Daniel practiced all week as though he would be the starting quarterback today, but regardless of whether he or Matthew Stafford starts he feels like he got the offense prepared to face the Vikings.
"It was fun to run the offense," Daniel said. "I'm so used to running the scout team my entire career. I feel really good about our week of practice. We were really sharp Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"We came out there today, I think one ball hit the ground in red zone work today. It's been fun. I think it will really help me down the road if I ever have to play."
Stafford was a virtual presence in all meetings and drills, Daniel said. Daniel said he doesn't think missing a week of practice will hinder Stafford if he is able to start today.
"He's the the heart and soul of this team," Daniel said. "As the Lions go, so goes Matthew Stafford and so on and so forth. For him not to be here, it's difficult on him.
"There's no doubt in my mind, if he had to play he doesn't need practice. If anyone can do it, it's him."
"Energizer" Everson: Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was complimentary of Everson Griffen in his interview with the Detroit media this week. He called Griffen the "Energizer Bunny" of the defense and said he was a good player for the Vikings under Zimmer's tenure as head coach, which began in 2014.
Griffen, who's playing his first game for the Lions since being acquired in a trade with the Cowboys, took exception to being called good, not great, when he spoke to the Detroit media.
"I got a little frustrated when I read that comment that Zimmer said that 'Everson was a good player.' Coach Zimmer wasn't a good coach. He was a great coach for me.
"For him to call me a good player, that kind of hurt my feelings. I'm looking forward to playing the Vikings and showing them I am a great player."
The way for Griffen to get even is to make life as miserable for Vikings QB Kirk Cousins as he did for Stafford in his 10 years with the Vikings.
Hall pass: It's a tall order for anyone to take over wide receiver Kenny Golladay's role in the Lions' offense while he sits out with a hip injury, and not just because of Golladay's size – 6-4, 215. Golladay has been a big-play man for four seasons because of his ability to make contested catches down the field.
Marvin Hall, who's 5-10, 190, is a candidate to pick up some of the slack. He's been a big-play man, too, in his two seasons with the Lions. Hall has 14 catches for 430 yards, two TDs and an average of 30.7 yards per catch.
After Golladay went out in last week's loss to the Colts, Hall had four catches for 113 yards, all in the second half. He had a long catch of 73 yards.
Props for Peterson: Vikings running back Dalvin Cook left no doubt when asked after last week's game in Green Bay how eager he is to see Adrian Peterson today. Peterson had departed in 2017, Cook's rookie year.
"It's crazy," Cook told reporters when asked what he thinks of Peterson playing in his 14th season at age 35.
"I know how my body feels being out there each season," Cook said. "To be doing it that long and doing it so well at a high level – there's no words for it."
Yards have been hard to come by of late for Peterson. In his first three games he rushed for 93, 41 and 75 yards. That's 209 yards, with an average of 4.86 yards per carry.
In the last four games he has 112 yards and 2.67 yards per carry.
Does being one month older really make that much difference?
Prediction: The Lions have missed so many chances to make a statement, and this is another one. They've stopped the run pretty well recently, but Cook will be a real test. This is a winnable game for the Lions, but they've been disappointing in moments like this.
Pick: Vikings 27, Lions 17.