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Lunchbreak: ESPN Previews Vikings-Lions Finale

Both the Vikings and Lions will not be going to the postseason, meaning each team's season is over after Sunday.

But there are still a handful of things to watch in Week 17 that ESPN beat reporters Courtney Cronin (who covers the Vikings) and Michael Rothstein (who covers the Lions) laid out in their preview of the NFC North matchup.

Cronin noted she'll be watching Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who currently has 79 catches for 1,267 yards (including six 100-yard games) and seven scores through 15 games.

Jefferson is in range of a handful of rookie records entering Sunday, including passing Randy Moss' Vikings rookie record of 1,313 yards.

Cronin wrote:

Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson has six games with 100-plus receiving yards this season, one shy of tying Odell Beckham, Jr., (2014) for the most by a rookie since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. He also needs 111 yards to break Anquan Boldin's mark for most receiving yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

Rothstein, meanwhile, said that he expects both teams to use a few tricks up their sleeves in the season finale.

He wrote:

Trickery! Week 17 is usually full of randomness — the Lions, for instance, have thrown in fake field goals and offensive linemen catching touchdown passes in the last week of the regular season in the past. With everyone knowing a regime change is coming in Detroit, perhaps we'll see some deep-in-the-playbook plays in the finale. It's at least one thing that could make this game interesting.

And while the game doesn't have any playoff implications, the outcome could determine where each team picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Lions are projected to pick at No. 7, and their odds to remain in the top 10 are 86.8% per FPI. They even have a 27.5% chance to climb into the top five. The Vikings are looking at the 13th pick, per FPI projections, with a slim 2.9% chance of maneuvering into the top 10 picks.

As for the final score, both reporters are going with a Vikings win that would push Minnesota to 7-9.

Cronin predicted a 28-16 win for the Vikings, while Rothstein went with a 28-14 victory for Minnesota.

Krammer highlights Cousins' durability

Kirk Cousins is set to make his 49th overall start and conclude his third season with the Vikings.

The quarterback started all 16 games in 2018, and then started 17 total games in 2019, which includes two playoff games but not the season finale, when the Vikings rested most starters with a playoff spot already locked up.

Entering Week 17, Cousins has made all 15 starts in 2020 and played all 1,002 offensive snaps.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently highlighted the quarterback's durability, which extends to his time with Washington, too.

Krammer wrote:

When Cousins starts Sunday against the Lions, he'll complete six straight years without missing a regular-season game because of injury. That spans 95 starts — 47 for the Vikings, a franchise that before Cousins hadn't had a full-time passer complete three straight healthy seasons since Fran Tarkenton in the mid-1970s.

"There have been a lot of answered prayers along those lines," Cousins said.

His only missed NFL start came when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer decided to sit him and others during last year's finale after the team had already qualified for the playoffs.

Cousins, 32, remains among the NFL's ironmen at quarterback, a position where only Seattle's Russell Wilson and Indianapolis' Philip Rivers have started all 96 regular season games (including this Sunday) since 2015, when Cousins became the full-time starter in Washington. And this year, having taken a career-high 111 hits in 15 games, he has tested that durability in a few ways.

Cousins has been sacked 36 times in 2020, including 15 in the past four games against the Jaguars, Buccaneers, Bears and Saints.

He has completed 321 of 476 passes (67.0 percent) for 3,860 yards with 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 103.1, which ranks eighth in the league.

Cousins has also set a career high in touchdown passes and has the second-best passer rating of his career.