Matthew Stafford’s Finale? 5 Things to Watch in Lions-Vikings

Matthew Stafford

Getty Matthew Stafford on the field before a 2020 Lions game.

The Detroit Lions are playing out the string as they get set to take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17, and even though the game is a lost cause for both teams at this point as far as their future this season, there are still plenty of compelling reasons to tune in.

Both Minnesota and Detroit are facing a very interesting future. The Lions of course have already committed to major organizational changes, and it’s possible the Vikings could decide on that outcome as well if they continue to lose games and struggle down the stretch. To that end, the game offers some interesting subplots as the teams push to the finish of their season and try to start 2021 off on the right note.

What is there left to monitor in the last game? Here’s a look at the top things to watch this week as Detroit finishes out another tough season and looks toward the future.

What Lions Make the Best Case To Stay?

The Lions don’t have much in the way to evaluate in terms of their coaching staff, and there’s likely to be a full house cleaning in the weeks ahead. Even in spite of that, the chance will exist for plenty of players to make a positive case for themselves on the roster for the next staff. So who should stay that’s an unrestricted free agent, and can any players on the borderline fight their way on the roster for next year? A new staff is coming in, and the final game will give them some good tape to evaluate for the future. It behooves the Lions players to step up and continue to fight, especially after last week’s embarrassment.

Can the Lions Control Minnesota’s Wideouts?

The first matchup, Detroit did a decent job to keep the duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen in check. Without Dalvin Cook, the Vikings will need those players to step up. Detroit allowed only 102 yards between the pair, which was shockingly good. Both have played great football in recent weeks, and the Lions will have to hope for a repeat performance of what they did the first time and not allow Irv Smith or others to score. It’s a tough task, but winning might depend on it this week.

What’s the Final Draft Position?

The Lions are currently in the seventh position in the 2021 NFL Draft standings which is decent, but that could rise as high as three if the team loses and also gets some luck around them. So will they be able to? Fans will no doubt be hoping for a loss as well as plenty of wins in front of them to climb as high as possible. Reality says the Lions will probably pick somewhere between five and seven with a loss, but a win could move them outside the top 10, which could hurt their chances of an impact player for the roster and the new front office.

The First Ever Spielman Bowl

For the first time, Chris Spielman and Rick Spielman will face off as NFC North rivals. The Lions hired Chris a few weeks back to their front office as an assistant to the team president, and Rick is currently the general manager of Minnesota. It will be very interesting to see how the Spielman bowl plays out moving forward. Rick Spielman has done a nice job creating a solid culture in Minnesota, and the Lions are looking to do that as well with a guide from the same family.

Is This Matthew Stafford’s Detroit Finale?

Stafford once again will see his status up in the air until game time given the bevy of injuries he will finish with, and depending on what happens with the direction of the new front office, there’s a chance this could be his final game in Detroit. Will it happen on the bench or on the field? An ankle injury on top of a rib and thumb ailment could complicate all of that. There’s compelling reasons to both keep and trade Stafford, so the decision is not cut and dry for whomever takes over in the near future. Still, there’s always a chance this could be the former top pick’s last game in Ford Field as a member of the Lions, so that will be something fans want to consider.

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