(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'
"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
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
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,
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
"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
"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."
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
The Sports Network