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The Skinny Post: Vikings to Open NFC North Play vs. Lions

Posted Sep 29, 2017


The games mean a little more now.

The Vikings begin NFC North play on Sunday as they host the Detroit Lions at noon (CT) at U.S. Bank Stadium. It is the first of three consecutive division games for Minnesota.

The Vikings were swept Detroit in 2016, losing a pair of games by nine combined points. A team has swept the season series in each of the past three years, with the “sweeper” making the postseason each time.

Minnesota is 2-1 following a 34-17 win over Tampa Bay. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum will make his third straight start for Minnesota.

The Lions are 2-1 following a loss to Atlanta. Detroit went 9-7 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card team in 2016.

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday’s contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Double threats | By @pcraigers

Look for both teams to incorporate running backs as targets in the passing game.

Detroit’s Theo Riddick is second on the Lions with 13 receptions through three games. Riddick has totaled 82 yards and one score through the air, and starting running back Ameer Abdullah has six receptions for 50 yards this season.

Riddick has been a problem in the past for the Vikings, but Minnesota has had the solution for him more recently.

In eight games against Minnesota, Riddick has totaled 19 receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown. He did considerable damage early in 2014, delivering a 41-yard catch and run and a 9-yard touchdown catch within the first seven plays of the game that was hosted by the Vikings.

Last season, however, he totaled 19 yards on six receptions but racked up 115 rushing yards on 23 combined carries.

For the Vikings, rookie Dalvin Cook totaled 169 yards from scrimmage last week against the Buccaneers and ranks third in the NFL with 370 yards from scrimmage. Cook has 10 receptions for 82 yards and 61 carries for 288 yards.

He also helped with the Vikings passing game by throwing a key block during a pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs.

Spying on the secondaries | By @Eric_L_Smith

Five different defenses racked up three interceptions across the league in Week 3 of the 2017 NFL season.

Two of them will meet up Sunday when the Vikings and Lions go toe-to-toe at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Detroit’s trio of picks against the Falcons continued a strong season for a Lions defense that has seven total interceptions, which is the second-most in the NFL this season.

Cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin each lead the Lions with two interceptions.

While Keenum will face a stern test, he also excelled against Detroit last season when he was a member of the Los Angeles Rams.

Keenum completed 27 of 32 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns, completing 19 straight passes during the game to set a Rams franchise record.

Keeping things balanced | By @LindseyMNSports

A theme among Vikings players and coaches in reaction to Week 3 was the “team win” accomplished over the Buccaneers. This week, Minnesota will try to keep things balanced in its first game this season against a divisional opponent.

Against Tampa Bay, Keenum had a career day when he finished 25-of-33 passing for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Cook rushed for 97 yards on 27 carries and added 72 receiving yards, and Adam Thielen and Diggs combined for 271 receiving yards. Eight different Vikings caught passes in that game, with four of them making at least two receptions. The offense also got in the end zone on two of three goal-to-go situations.

On defense, Minnesota snagged three interceptions (Trae Waynes, Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith) after causing no turnovers in the first two games. The Vikings also held the Bucs to 1-for-6 (17 percent) on third-down conversions and limited them to just 26 yards rushing on the day.

The Vikings will host the Lions for a second consecutive contest at U.S. Bank Stadium, and Keenum will make his third consecutive start in Purple. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and his staff will be seeking another balanced performance on Sunday in search of adding another ‘W’ to the stat sheet.

Substantial Stats 

—Thielen and Diggs rank second and third, respectively, in the NFL in receiving yards. Thielen has 299, and Diggs, who is second the league with four touchdown catches, has 293 yards.

— Cook ranks second in the NFL with 288 rushing yards. That total is the most through three games by a rookie in franchise history.

— Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen has 4.0 sacks in three games this season, which is tied for fourth in the NFL. Griffen has 8.5 sacks in 13 career games against the Lions.

— The Vikings punt coverage unit has allowed minus-1 return yard in three games this season. The Lions are the only team with a punt return for a touchdown in 2017.

Quotable

“We need all of our fans out there full force this weekend. Noon game. Big division rival. It’ll be exciting. So let’s make this thing as loud as we possibly can. Crank this thing up.” — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on needing a loud crowd at home against the Lions.