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Opposing Viewpoint: 5 Questions (and Answers) About Lions

The Vikings will put a bow in the 2020 season Sunday in Detroit.

Minnesota's young offensive players could get a chance to shine, while the Vikings defense is looking to end the season on a high note.

But what are some key storylines from the other side?

To find that out, chatted with Lions reporter Tori Petry for a glance at what Detroit is thinking before Sunday's game.

Here is the Week 17 edition of Opposing Viewpoint:

We'll start with Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell, who is a familiar name to Vikings fans, as he was the team's offensive coordinator from 2006-10. How has he done under tough circumstances — including not being able to coach in Week 16 — and is he a candidate for the head coaching role?

TP: Darrell Bevell has stepped in and done a fantastic job with what he had to work with. Obviously, this last week was so unfortunate with the way things shook out … having been flexed to the Saturday game and having all of the COVID exposures on the coaching staff … all of them continued to test negative, they just couldn't get back in the building or be on the sideline. He described it as feeling "helpless," but there was really nothing he could do.

I think the biggest thing he brought this team when he stepped in was energy. That was something he really wanted to infuse this team with and say, 'Hey, we can have a good time when we're at practice and in the building, but we can also work hard. Those two things can go together.' That's something he's really emphasized.

So, he's done the best he could under the circumstances. Rod Wood [Detroit's Team President and CEO] said that he's under consideration and they wanted to see how these final few games went. I don't think he's done anything incorrectly or poorly … but it would be a matter of whether this front office wants to start over fresh. They really did a bit of house cleaning earlier this season, so we'll see if they want to start fresh after the season is over.

Matthew Stafford is a gamer who has played through a myriad of injuries in his career. What's his status, and who would be in line if he can't go in the season finale?

TP: They monitored him as the week went on, and it just depends on how he is feeling. I know that if it's up to Matthew Stafford, he's going to do everything he can to get out there on the field because he hates missing games.

He talked about it a couple weeks ago when he played against the Titans where he had the injured rib. He said the offseason is for resting and recovering, but my guys are going out there and fighting and I want to be alongside them. That's the mindset he brings to the table.

If he doesn't go, it will be interesting to see what the Lions do. In this last game after he went down [against the Bucs], they actually played two different quarterbacks in Chase Daniel and David Bough.

Daniel was the free agent they signed as a safety net in case Stafford were to go down, so I would think they would probably start with Daniel and see where it goes. But it might be a situation where they do give Blough some more game experience. I wouldn't be surprised if we see both of them if Stafford doesn't go.

Who's a name on offense that has been a bright spot this season, and someone who is primed to be a focal part of the offense in 2021 and beyond?

TP: A couple of bright spots are the Pro Bowl players for the Lions. Tight end T.J. Hockenson has had a great year, and it's a well-deserved bid for him. He has been a total bright spot with almost 700 yards with a game left to play. He's been really involved in this offense, and a big target for Stafford, especially in the red zone.

Another would be center Frank Ragnow, who is from Minnesota. He's had a fantastic year and has played so, so well and has been in the conversation for best centers around the league. Unfortunately, he had that throat injury, which just sounds brutal to me. We don't know whether he's going to play in the finale, but he's just been fantastic.

So Ragnow and Hockenson are bright spots, but someone to watch is D'Andre Swift. The rookie running back has really stepped in … the Lions had a running-back-by-committee approach early on when they were giving more carries to Adrian Peterson. But as Swift came along, they gave more carries to him.

The game the Lions played Washington and Swift started, he went off, but unfortunately ended up getting a concussion the following week and didn't play for a few games. It was a bummer for him to come on and then get sidelined, but we've still seen good stuff from him when he's gotten back in there.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Lions.

Same question, but on defense … has anyone really stepped up of late that Vikings fans should be wary of for Week 17?

TP: The bright spot on defense is defensive end Romeo Okwara. He had a breakout season a couple years ago, but you were waiting to see if he could put up those numbers again this year, and he has. He leads the Lions in terms of sacks, and that's without Trey Flowers, who is on Injured Reserve, drawing attention on the other side. Okwara gets the most attention on that defensive line.

An underrated name is John Penisini along the defensive line. He was taken late (sixth round) in the draft, but he's an interior guy who has been really important, especially when it comes to trying to stop the run.

Danny Shelton, a big free agent along the line, went down this season and wasn't able to play. Penisini stepped in and did a really good job, so he's a guy to keep an eye on for the future.

And finally, what do you expect out of the Lions this week and in the final game of 2020? Will young players get more playing time?

TP: This is definitely an interesting Week 17 game for both of these teams because it doesn't mean anything for the postseason. I think we see more younger players get a chance to show what they can do and put some good stuff on tape.

For fans, the thing to watch is individual performances … who sticks out? Who makes plays as a final statement for themselves heading into the offseason?

The Lions have several key guys headed to free agency, including Okwara and Jamal Agnew, who is their return man. Even kicker Matt Prater [is a free agent], so it's a game for guys like that to show what they can do as they head into free agency.

But also young guys, I think we'll see a lot of them. I do know that it's important for this team to compete Sunday. This is not a game where they'll throw young guys out there and see what happens … a lot of guys have talked about competing and not giving half effort.