The Vikings will return to the comfortable confines of U.S. Bank Stadium today and try to get back on the winning track after consecutive losses on the road. To do so, they'll have to defeat NFC North rival Detroit. With kickoff nearly upon us, here are a few final thoughts on the matchup.
Today marks the first time in head coach Mike Zimmer's tenure that the Vikings offense will be coordinated and plays will be called by someone other than Norv Turner. The resignation by Turner earlier in the week thrust TEs coach Pat Shurmur into the coordinating and play calling role, one he's had in multiple stops during his NFL career. The personnel and injury problems remain, though. What will be interesting to find out is what Shurmur's signature on the offense will be. Will he spread out the formation and use the quick game? Will he go to the no huddle? More play action? Or will it look the same and feature subtle changes in tendencies and calls? Only time will tell, and today is just the first step this offense will take under Shurmur.
YAC the way to TDs
The Vikings have allowed 11 sacks in the past two games, quite contrary results to how they were able to operate in the first five games as they built up a 5-0 record. One way to help neutralize the opponent's pass rush is to focus on getting the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly by utilizing shorter pass routes. Of course this limits the offense's ability to push the ball down the field through the air, but it doesn't necessarily limit the offense's ability to make big plays. With playmakers such as Stefon Diggs, Jerick McKinnon (questionable – ankle) and Cordarrelle Patterson on the field, the Vikings have the option of relying on those players to gain yards after the catch (YAC).
New man in the middle for Vikings defense
It will be interesting to see how the Vikings fill the void left by starting middle linebacker Eric Kendricks' absence (concussion). Don't be surprised if Zimmer employs a by-committee approach featuring veterans Audie Cole, Chad Greenway and Emmanuel Lamur. Which veteran takes the field depends on the game situation, namely down and distance. This approach allows Zimmer to better matchup against the Lions defense and it also reduces the chances of special teams being impacted – both Cole and Lamur are core special teams players and a full-time role on defense could reduce the special teams role.
U.S. Bank Stadium can help Vikings crank up the (QB) pressure
Just as the Vikings look to reduce the amount of quarterback pressure Sam Bradford faces as they return to play at home, they are just as committed to increasing the pressure they put on Matthew Stafford with the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd on their side. The Vikings defense generated just one sack in the last two games, but they were able to sack Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers five times in Week 2 at home and they brought Brock Osweiler down four times in the home game against Houston. There are important matchups up and down the line of scrimmage, but Everson Griffen will be facing rookie left tackle Taylor Decker and then Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison will square off against either Cornelius Lucas or Corey Robinson because starter Riley Reiff is listed as out with an illness.
Finishing strong important versus these Lions
If the Vikings are fortunate enough to hold a lead entering the 4th quarter, don't expect a boring finish. Detroit put together three consecutive come-from-behind wins with game-winning drives in the 4th quarter in Weeks 5-7. That means you can't count the Lions out if they're trailing in the final quarter and it means you can expect the Vikings to keep the pedal to the medal even if they enter the 4th quarter with a lead. Either way, there should be some fireworks in the final period.