The Vikings will hit the road for the first time since Week 11 and head to Detroit in search of their first NFC North win of the season and their third win in a row. The game was originally scheduled for a 12:00 p.m. CT kickoff but has been flexed to a 3:25 p.m. CT start.
Let's take a look at five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings and Lions prepare to battle.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Lions.
1. Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson in Lineup as Vikings Seek RevengeFor the second time this season the Vikings will take their second swing at a division opponent as they look to notch their first NFC North win under Mike Zimmer's guidance. The Vikings path to redemption from their Week 6 loss to the Lions won't be easy, though, as this time both RB Reggie Bush and WR Calvin Johnson are expected to be in the lineup – neither played in the earlier-season matchup between these two teams.
2. Banged Up Vikings OL Takes on Dominant Lions Defense
As the Vikings prepare to take on a Lions defense than ranks No. 1 against the run, No. 2 in total yards allowed, No. 4 in offensive points allowed and No. 10 against the pass, they will do so with both starters on the right side of the offensive line – RG Brandon Fusco and RT Phil Loadholt – out and perhaps their starting left guard – Charlie Johnson – missing, as well. Joe Berger has been filling in for Fusco and Mike Harris for Loadholt, and if Johnson can't go it will likely be Vladimir Ducasse who steps into the lineup. Regardless of who is in the lineup, the Vikings offensive line will see a disruptive Lions front that includes DTs Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh causing problems in the middle and second-year DE Ziggy Ansah , who had 8.0 sacks as a rookie last year and has 7.5 this year, pressuring from the edge.
3. Rhodes' Next Test: Calvin Johnson
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes is in the midst of a breakout season. He leads the Vikings and is third in the NFL with 17 pass breakups (PBUs), and his play this season is a big reason the Vikings pass defense has improved so drastically – from last in the NFL a year ago to No. 6 entering this weekend's games. Rhodes will see a great test this week, though, as he prepares to defend perhaps the best wide receiver in the game and certainly the most dominant player at the position over the past several seasons – Calvin Johnson. Don't expect the Vikings to leave Johnson singled up with Rhodes or anyone much, but it's fair to anticipate Rhodes will have a significant role in whatever plan the Vikings defense has for Johnson.
4. Vikings Must Beware of Bell
Playing the Lions means contending with one of the best defenses in the NFL and having to block a tremendous defensive tackle tandem in Fairley and Suh. It means having to find a way to pressure QB Matthew Stafford so he doesn't shred the secondary. It means finding a way to not let Bush razzle and dazzle or Johnson take over the game. But an under-the-radar yet very effective weapon for the Lions is RB Joique Bell. The 5-11, 229-pound bruising running back is a chore to tackle and is more than a tough short-yardage runner. He's nimble on his feet and has reliable hands coming out of the backfield. Over the last two games, Bell has rushed for 174 yards on 41 carries, he's caught seven passes for 66 yards, and he's scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving).
5. Who Can Find the Hidden Yardage?Division games are often times closely-contested affairs. And closely-contested games in the NFL can illuminate the importance of field position. A good battle will likely unfold on Sunday between the Vikings and Lions special teams groups, particularly when it comes to the return game. Both teams have players who rank in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt return average, and at the same time the Viking rank No. 3 in the NFL in opponent kickoff return average and No. 10 in opponent punt return average while the Lions rank No. 6 in net punting average.