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4 Vikings at Lions Storylines: High Stakes & Red Zone Challenge in Detroit

EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings (10-2) are heading to Detroit to face the 5-7 Lions with a chance to close out the NFC North title with a win or tie.

This will be a rematch more than 10 weeks after Minnesota executed a 10-point comeback at home against Detroit for a 28-24 victory in Week 3.

That win, which was secured on a 28-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to K.J. Osborn with 45 seconds remaining and sealed with an interception by Josh Metellus with nine seconds remaining, catapulted Minnesota to winning seven in a row and nine of the past 10.

The Lions then lost their next four games before rallying to win four of their past five.

Here is a predicted key matchup, along with five storylines for this week.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Lions.

Matchup to watch: Vikings offense vs. Lions blitz

According to Next Gen Stats, Detroit blitzed Minnesota on 57.1 percent of dropbacks, the highest percentage in a game this season.

The Lions allowed just 4.9 yards per pass attempt on those plays. Minnesota totaled 6.3 yards per pass attempt during the game.

The contest immediately followed the success that Philadelphia had while blitzing Minnesota in Week 2.

The Vikings gained 30 first downs the first time against the Lions, despite going just 2-for-9 on third downs.

So will the Lions choose to keep the heat high, especially with the benefit of playing at home, or will the Vikings have more blitz beaters in their offense that has continued to refine itself in its first season under Head Coach Kevin O'Connell?

1. Stakes are high

While this game won't receive the national attention, the stakes are high for Minnesota, which is trying to keep its solid hold on the No. 2 seed in the NFC Playoffs and hopefully remain in striking distance of the top spot should Philadelphia (11-1) have some hiccups, and Detroit, which is trying to win consecutive December games for the first time since Weeks 14-15 of 2017.

Even if the Vikings fell to the Lions, who are favored in some circles, they'd need just one more win in their final four games to secure the division for the first time since 2017.

A loss or tie by Detroit in any subsequent game also would do the trick, but there's a certain satisfaction in winning a division title with a team's own hands.

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2. Yards likely, but can Vikings continue recent red zone success?

The Lions rank last in total defense, having allowed 402.2 yards per game, and scoring defense (27.0 points against per game).

The Vikings, despite being five games up in the win column, are in the same yardage allowed neighborhood, offering up 398.7 per game (31st in NFL), but they have been more successful at limiting scoreboard damage (23.3 points against per game—tied for 21st).

Minnesota has limited New England and the New York Jets to a 1-for-9 showing on red zone trips in its past two games.

The Lions could be tougher to stop when they get the ball inside Minnesota's 20-yard line. Detroit has scored touchdowns on 73.9 percent of its red zone trips, which leads the NFL, but its defense has allowed touchdowns on 66.7 of opponents' possessions in the red zone.

Both teams were 3-for-3 in the first meeting.

3. Weapons galore

The Vikings and Lions feature offensive players who have delivered tremendous offensive production.

Justin Jefferson is third in the NFL with 88 receptions and second with 1,277 receiving yards. He needs 123 more to become the first receiver in NFL history with 1,400+ in each of his first three seasons.

Detroit's Amon-Ra St. Brown, who caught the game-winner in Motown last year, leads the Lions with 76 receptions and 830 receiving yards. He posted 11 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns against Jacksonville last week, becoming the first Lions player with a 10+, 100+ and 2+ stat line since Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson in Week 13 of 2014.

View exclusive behind-the-scene photos from the Vikings victory over the Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 4, 2022.

The Lions tandem of Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift has combined for 20 scrimmage touchdowns this season, which leads all RB duos on a team, according to NFL Media Research. Williams has an NFL-best 14 rushing touchdowns this season after entering the year with 13 in his career.

The Vikings will counter with Dalvin Cook, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 927 rushing yards and needs 73 for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season, and Alexander Mattison.

Cook has averaged 123.3 scrimmage yards per game against the Lions, his most against a foe he's played at least three times. Mattison scored on a 14-yard touchdown last week and has scored five of his 12 scrimmage touchdowns against Detroit.

A potential X-factor will be Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson, the former first-round pick that Detroit traded just before the deadline. Hockenson caught a touchdown against Minnesota in Week 3. Hockenson caught 26 passes for 395 yards and three scores in seven games with the Lions. He's caught 30 for 225 and one score in five games with the Vikings.

4. Rest and recover

The Vikings opted for a walk-through session on Wednesday, which is a continued deployment of a plan by O'Connell to monitor wear and tear on players as the season progresses.

It turns out both locker rooms have multiple players listed on this week's injury report because of illnesses.

Three defensive starters — outside linebacker Danielle Hunter, safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Patrick Peterson — did not participate in Wednesday's walk-through for that reason. Neither did fullback C.J. Ham or safety Theo Jackson.

Detroit listed the following three players as not participating because of illness: cornerback Jeff Okudah, receiver Kalif Raymond and backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld.

The Vikings returned cornerback Cameron Dantzler, Sr., and running back Ty Chandler to practice Wednesday, beginning their 21-day evaluation windows as they try to return from Injured Reserve. O'Connell is optimistic that Dantzler is close.