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Lunchbreak: Pundits Look Ahead to Vikings-Lions Division Tilt

The Vikings first NFC North game of the season is on deck.

Minnesota (1-3) will host Detroit (0-4) at noon (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Various pundits recently offered their takeaways on what to watch for in Week 5, with ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin is looking at the Vikings starting quarterback.

Cronin wrote that Kirk Cousins is aiming to continue a torrid stretch against Detroit.

Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins has dominated the Lions as a member of the Vikings, having thrown 15 touchdowns and one interception since 2018, and Minnesota is in the midst of a seven-game win streak over its divisional foe with an average margin of victory of 11.6 points per game.

As for the Lions, Cronin noted that Dan Campbell's squad is banged up.

It won't get easier this week for the Lions. Detroit's offensive line will be shorthanded against Minnesota's stout pass rush (3.2 sacks per game, tied for third in the NFL). Center Frank Ragnow (toe) was placed on injured reserve this week, and the Lions are also preparing to play without left tackle Penei Sewell (ankle).

Cronin predicted a 30-21 Vikings win, while ESPN Lions reporter Eric Woodyard's pick was a 28-23 Minnesota win.

As for other storylines, Chad Graff and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic are looking forward to Anthony Barr’s expected return.

Graff wrote:

It seems clear based on Barr's press conference this week that it was Barr and not the team who ruled him out last week due to the knee injury that has lingered and kept him from playing the first four weeks. But now Barr seems confident that he'll make his season debut Sunday and play in his first game in more than a year. The Vikings badly need him back since his run stopping is significantly better than Nick Vigil's and Barr also excels at rushing the passer and playing in coverage. He may not play every defensive snap as he works back into it, but I want to see how Barr plays and how he helps the defense.

Krawczynski added:

The Vikings have been gashed on the ground without him, and it would seem like the Lions best chance would be to control the line of scrimmage and chew up the clock, even if Detroit hasn't been anything special on the ground this season. Mike Zimmer has long made it clear how highly he thinks of Barr, so he will need to make an impact now that he is finally going to be on the field.

Graff predicted a 37-20 Vikings win, while Krawczynski went with a 34-21 Minnesota victory. Fellow writer Arif Hasan projected a 31-20 win for the home team.

Patterson: Focus is on pressures, not sacks, against Lions

Andre Patterson made it quite clear where he stands on some defensive stats this week.

The Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/defensive line coach repeatedly emphasized the need for quarterback pressures this week, and not necessarily lots of sacks.

John Shipley of the Pioneer Press recapped Patterson’s remarks ahead of Sunday's game.

After last Sunday's 14-7 loss to Cleveland, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said reporters pay too much attention to stats and if they'd see what he sees, they'd see a Vikings team better than its record (1-3). Patterson was right in line with his comments when asked about [D.J.] Wonnum, who has six tackles and no sacks while playing 185 defensive snaps in the Vikings four games.

What's important for a rushing lineman, Patterson said, is the pressure he puts on the quarterback, sack or no sack.

"If you take a D-lineman, and you put all his value on sacks, it's not smart," he said. "It's not smart. I get it, they get paid off of sacks, but sacks don't win you games. They don't. That's just the fact of the matter."

Minnesota has 13 total sacks this season, which is tied for the third-highest total in the league.

But according to this chart from The Athletic, the Vikings also rank fourth overall with a pressure rate of 8.8 percent.

According to The Athletic, Danielle Hunter ranks eighth in the league with a pressure rate of 16.4 percent. He leads the Vikings, and is tied for second in the league, with 5.0 sacks.

Hunter has 11.0 of his 59.5 career sacks against Detroit.