NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Can't Fake It
by Dennis Ranahan

There are all sorts of ways to evaluate the factors in a National Football League game in search of a winner. Some rely on rushing and passing stats, or turnover ratio, or sacks, or home team underdogs, or this and that. If you’ve thought you figured out every reason a person can use to pick a football game, they will surprise you with something else that you hadn’t yet considered.

While I respect a team with as much talent as the Los Angeles Rams or the firepower being displayed by the high scoring Kansas City Chiefs, in fact I believe all the stats pale in importance to the motivational elements entering a game. An unchallenged talented squad can be a sitting duck to a team operating from the motivational spike provided by the greatest factor of them all … a true fear of failure.

A team as good as the Minnesota Vikings can be ripe for an upset against a squad as challenged talentwise as the Buffalo Bills when they are not aware of the possibility of losing. This season, the Bills visited the Vikings for a Week Three matchup and as a 16½ point underdog ran roughshod over the favored Vikings on their home field, 27-6.

How could this have happened?

The result was much more pinned to the motivational factors than the teams’ respective rosters. The Vikings had failed to win the prior week when a missed field goal left their game at Lambeau Field in a tie against NFC North Division rival Green Bay Packers, 29-29. The Vikings didn’t see the missed opportunity in Green Bay as a reason to be concerned about their home game the following week against the Bills.

That cost ‘em.

After the loss to the Bills, the Vikings played in Los Angeles and traded blows with the talented Rams and got a point spread push in a touchdown loss, 38-31. The following week, as an underdog in Philadelphia, the Vikings beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles and won two more games after that versus the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets.

Last week, in a battle between two heavyweights, the Vikings suffered critical turnovers and lost to the visiting New Orleans Saints, 30-20.

Not to worry.

Just like the tie against Green Bay seven weeks ago, the Vikings are good enough to be confident in their next game.

That is a problem.

You can add up all the rushing, passing, defensive and scoring stats you want in search of an NFL team with an edge, but if they don’t have fire in their belly, a real respect for the possibility that without a full effort they could get upset, the stats fall as flat as the team on Sunday.

Do the Vikings fear their opponent this week, the Detroit Lions, following their loss to the Saints?

I think not.

Do the Lions, following a home loss last Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks, come to the Twin Cities fearing a second straight loss and the possibility of being buried in the cellar of their division race with another loss in Minnesota?

Yes they do.

No coaches talk of being prepared for an opponent can match the edge gained by a team that truly has a fear of failure. The Vikings can’t fake that this week, and the Lions are unable to avoid it.

Minnesota is confident off a loss, which is deadly in the motivation game.

Qoxhi Picks: Detroit Lions (+5½) over the Minnesota Vikings