Vikings-Lions matchup of the day: Wednesday

Posted Sept. 21, 2011 @ 5:39 p.m.
Posted By Christian West

Here's a key matchup to watch in Sunday's game against the Lions.

Vikings linebackers vs. Lions tight ends

After facing elite tight ends in consecutive weeks (Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow Jr.), the Vikings will get no reprieve against the Lions as Detroit's dynamic tandem of Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew visit the Metrodome.

The Vikings' linebackers have done a good job thus far on opposing tight ends, holding Winslow to four receptions and 44 yards and Gates to 74 yards on eight catches (9.3 avg.). A lot of the credit can go to Chad Greenway, who is athletic enough to deal with the modern tight end, which is starting to look more like a receiver, in space. It especially helped against Gates, eliminating his explosive plays and forcing him to work underneath. Gates' long catch was 15 yards.

The Lions present a unique challenge because they use two different styles of tight ends that could put additional pressure on the Vikings' ’backers. Pettigrew is adept at working the short-to-intermediate area of the field, and Scheffler is a vertical threat who can attack the seams.

A situation to watch is when the Lions go to two-TE formations against the Vikings' base cover-2 defense. Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson is still recovering from a knee injury and hasn't regained all of his mobility when trying to cover the deep middle of the cover-2. Look for the Lions to try to get Scheffler down the seam and test Henderson's knee, like they did for Scheffler's 36-yard TD reception against the Chiefs last week.