The Vikings are looking to finish the season on a roll and can take a big step forward in doing so on Sunday when they visit Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions. The Lions are finishing up a season that fell short of expectations while the Vikings are trying to keep their postseason hopes alive with consecutive wins after defeating the Miami Dolphins last week.
Here are five Vikings-Lions storylines to watch this week.
1. Look out! Vikings sack attack on the move to Detroit
The Vikings tallied nine sacks in their last game, a 41-17 thumping of the Dolphins. In their last game against the Lions, the Vikings set a single-game franchise record with 10 sacks. Now, the Vikings are the second team since 1990 and just the seventh team since 1970 to register nine-plus sacks in multiple games in a season. No team has more sacks than the Vikings (47) this season and their total in 2018 is the highest in Mike Zimmer's tenure. Suffice it to say, the Lions will be planning to neutralize this fierce Vikings pass rush. Screens, draws, maximum protection personnel groupings and formation, the quick game…quarterback Matthew Stafford will use every trick in the book to avoid going down with the ball in his hands.
2. Cook and Co. look to make it two in a row
The Vikings made a change at offensive coordinator and they faced a lackluster Dolphins run defense last week. It added up to a big rushing day for the Vikings, as they totaled 220 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in what was the best single-game rushing output of the season for Dalvin Cook (136 yards, two touchdowns). This is exactly what head coach Mike Zimmer has been ordering, and Kevin Stefanski, with the help of his fellow offensive coaches and the players, came through in a big way. Now, the trick is an encore. Detroit's run defense is different stylistically and it's also better than Miami's. The Vikings will also be on the road. All of that adds up to a stiffer challenge.
3. Vikings run defense should be tested, too
No, the Lions will likely not have star rookie running back Kerryon Johnson. But yes, the Lions will still make it a point to test the Vikings run defense on Sunday. The Vikings allowed a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half last week and both New England and Seattle found ways to challenge and produce against the Vikings run defense. With significant concerns about the Vikings pass rush, the Lions will have even more motivation and reason to use big, physical running backs LeGarrette Blount and Zach Zenner early and often.
4. Thielen looks for revenge
Vikings receiver Adam Thielen is a play with a chip on your shoulder-type of receiver. So let's give him a chip. Thielen opened the season with eight consecutive games of 100+ receiving yards. The first team to keep him under that threshold was the Detroit Lions in Week 9. Since that game, Thielen has topped 100 yards just once. There, Adam. There's your chip.
View the Vikings 2019 Pro Bowlers in photos.
5. NFC playoff picture still needs developing, and should get it this week
The Vikings have three teams chasing them for the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff field – Carolina, Philadelphia and Washington. The Vikings also have their eye on a team above them in the playoff field – Seattle. The Vikings need to win in order to ensure they maintain their lead over Carolina, Philadelphia and Washington, and a win would also put the Vikings in position to jump the Seahawks if they should drop a home game to Kansas City this weekend. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys are trying to stave off the Eagles for NFC East supremacy while the New Orleans Saints try to keep the Los Angeles Rams at bay for the No. 1 seed and the Rams try to stay ahead of the Chicago Bears for the No. 3 seed. Isn't this fun to try to follow? It should be a bit easier after this weekend's slate of games.