It's a quick turnaround for the Viking and Detroit Lions, as both teams must turn the page on their wins from last weekend and focus on their Thanksgiving Day showdown at Ford Field. The Vikings have won eight straight and they hold a two-game lead over a Lions team that won the earlier-season meeting between the two clubs and is looking to run down the division lead in the season's final stretch.
Here are five Vikings-Lions storylines to watch this week.
1. Either the NFC North race is about over, or it's only beginning
It can't be called the de facto NFC North title game because Detroit would remain mathematically alive even with a loss and they'd still be trailing the Vikings by a game in the standings with a win. But Thursday's contest between the division rivals has much at stake. The Lions have already beaten the Vikings once and would clinch the tie breaker with a win, while the Vikings enter the contest with a two-game lead and are looking to create even more space atop the standings.
2. Situational football paramount in Vikings-Lions matchups
The Lions have won the previous three meetings between these clubs and all three have been nail-biters that came down to the wire, with one of them even going into overtime. The Lions three wins over Minnesota have come by a combined 16 points. Turnovers at key points, clock management and special teams execution have all been critical in these close games, and they figure to help determine the winner on Thursday, too. The Vikings have been excellent in critical situations of late, scoring 10 touchdowns on their last 12 trips to the red zone and executing well on both sides of the ball on 3rd down, where the offense converts 45.6% of the time (No. 4 in the NFL) and the defense holds opponents to a 28.6% mark, No. 1 in the NFL.
3. Vikings may be in a "rush" to attack the Lions defense
The Lions last five games seem to be an indication that 6-4, 340-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is still worth his weight in gold. The Lions defense allowed three rushing touchdowns and a stingy 3.3 rushing yards per attempt and 74.6 rushing yards per game in the season's first five weeks. Then Ngata was lost for the season to injury. In the five games since, the Lions have surrendered nine rushing touchdowns and opponents are averaging two more yards per carry (5.3 per attempt) and 153.8 rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Vikings have eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground in each of the last two weeks and in five of the last six. Against one of the best defenses in the NFL last week, the Vikings rushed for 4.9 yards per carry, which kept the Los Angeles Rams defense off balance and allowed quarterback Case Keenum to effectively use the play action pass.
4. Matchup to watch: Everson Griffen vs. Taylor Decker
This is the second time these two teams have met in 2017 but it's the first matchup of the season between Everson Griffen and Taylor Decker. The Lions left tackle was on the Reserve/.Injured list for the Week 4 meeting between the clubs, but he's been active for the past two games and may be finding his form just in time to battle one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Griffen saw his streak of games played with a sack snapped last week, so he'll look to start a new streak on Thursday and add to his season-long total of 10.0 sacks.
5. Eyes on the injury report
Playing on a short week does not make it easy for players dealing with injuries to make it to game day. It does help them on the backside, though, because they have a few extra days to rest and heal before the next week's game. The Vikings were missing Mike Remmers, Brian Robison and Andrew Sendejo last week because of injury, plus Everson Griffen was questionable into the game and both Rashod Hill and Xavier Rhodes were forced to leave the game before returning to finish. The Lions have been without defensive end Ziggy Ansah the past two weeks and they hope to have him back for Thursday. Both teams were required to issue injury reports on Monday. Listed as non-participants for the Vikings were Mack Alexander (ankle), Rhodes (calf), Remmers (concussion) and Robison (back). Listed as limited participants were Griffen (foot), Anthony Harris (hamstring), Emmanuel Lamur (knee) and Sendejo (hamstring/groin). For the Lions, cornerback and returner Jamal Agnew (knee) and running back Dwayne Washington (hip) were listed as non participants, Ansah (back) was listed as limited and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (ankle) was listed as a full participant.