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O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: More catches possible for James

MINNEAPOLISLions-Vikings Final Thoughts: More catches possible for Jesse James; comparing offenses and Random Thoughts: Passing on the Vikes; measuring stick with Stafford; Griffen threat; Bo and Barry stat and sticking with my pick:

Whoever thought Jesse James would be used more than he has been this year as a pass catching tight end in the Detroit Lions' offense isn't alone.

So did Jesse James.

The role James expected to play when he signed with the Lions early in free agency has not developed, but that could change in the last four games.

Someone has to pick up the slack created by the season-ending ankle injury sustained by rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson on Thanksgiving Day against the Bears.

James is a likely candidate, given his experience in four seasons with the Steelers before coming to Detroit. He averaged 37.3 catches per season in his last three years with the Steelers.

James is taking nothing for granted.

"We'll see," James said. "I'm not really sure. Things change throughout the game. You never know which way it's going to go for us.

"It hasn't been going my way so far this year. We'll see how it goes down the road."

Hockenson was the primary receiving tight end in the first 12 games. He had 32 receptions out of 59 targets and two touchdowns. Logan Thomas was next with 11 catches out of 14 targets and one TD. James had nine catches on 16 targets without a TD.

"There's a lack of production from the whole room this year," James said. "It hasn't been up there with the level we were expecting ourselves to play. Obviously, a lot of things haven't gone our way this year. We do what we're asked and try to play the best we can."

Measuring up: While production of the tight ends may not have met some expectations, the offense has improved substantially over last year under new coordinator Darrell Bevell in the following key areas on a per game basis:

Points, 23.3 vs. 20.3; total yards, 377 vs. 322; passing yards, 271 vs. 223; rushing yards 105 vs. 103.

Random Thoughts:

Airing it out: My primary thought for today's game is that the Vikings' defense isn't as dominant as a year ago, and the Lions can throw effectively if they can protect quarterback David Blough as well as they protected Matthew Stafford in the Lions' loss to the Vikings in Week 7.

Stafford threw for 364 yards and four TDs in that game. The Vikings had four quarterback hits and two sacks.

The Vikings' pass defense is down dramatically in nearly every worthwhile category from a year ago, as follows: 21 TD passes allowed vs.15 for all of last season; 245.9 yards allowed per game vs. 196.2; 33 sacks vs. 50 for all 16 games; 91.4 passer rating vs. 83.3.

Everson Griffen sack attack: The three-time Pro Bowl defensive end isn't one of the biggest names in the league, but he's been a big-time producer against the Lions.

Griffen has had 12 sacks in the Vikings' last 12 games against the Lions and at least one sack in 10 of the 12 games. That includes a sack in the Vikings' Week 7 win at Ford Field.

Barry and Bo: This statistic is just that, a statistic. It is not a comparison of Bo Scarbrough and Barry Sanders.

As a rookie in 1989 Sanders rushed for 254 yards in his first four games. That included a net gain of one yard on five carries in his fourth game.

With 236 yards in his first three games, Scarbrough needs 19 yards to surpass Sanders' first four games.

Take it for what it's worth.

Incidentally, Sanders added 1,216 yards to his total in his last 12 games to finish with 1,470.

Sticking with my pick: The Vikings are trying to play through injuries, but they have nothing to overcome that compares to the Lions playing without Stafford. The Lions have kept games close all year and can do it again.

Pick: Vikings 30, Lions 20.

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