While the complementary pieces on each side change each year and have been improving of late, a Vikings-Lions matchup on Sunday always brings to focus a matchup between two quality players in the passing game – Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes and Lions WR Calvin Johnson.
Rhodes Closed vs. Megatron is the subject of this week's Ticketmaster Hot Matchup.
More and more, the Lions have been lining Johnson up in the slot. When that happens, there's a chance someone other than Rhodes lines up against him. But whenever these two players are opposite each other before the snap, you always know the action after the snap will be worth watching.
Johnson is the more veteran and more accomplished of the two. With nine years of experience and five Pro Bowls to his credit, the 6-5, 237-pound WR is widely regarded as one of the best players at his position in the NFL. He holds most of the Lions WR records and has been a mainstay in their offense since he was drafted in 2007.
For much of his career, the Vikings haven't had a quality counter-punch to Megatron. But that began to change in 2013, when the Vikings selected Rhodes 25th overall. That the Vikings have to contend with Johnson, as well as other top-notch WRs in the NFC North, twice annually likely was a factor in the team's decision to use a 1st-round pick on a CB for just the second time in franchise history; they subsequently also used a 1st-round pick on CB Trae Waynes, making it three times the Vikings have used a 1st-rounder on a CB.
Rhodes did not become a Megatron stopper from Day 1. In fact, Rhodes first career snap came against the Lions and he was lined up in press coverage against Johnson. At the snap, Johnson tossed Rhodes to the side and came open; Stafford misfired for an incompletion. Since that moment, though, Rhodes has grown up quickly and he has been as good a defender on Johnson as there is in the League.
Will that continue on Sunday? We'll have to wait to find out. We'll also have to wait to see just how many times these two stalwarts line up against each other. But we do know that every time they do, it's a hot matchup worth watching.
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