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5 Vikings-Lions Storylines to Watch in Week 17

Turn the calendar, turn the page.

The Vikings (6-9) were officially eliminated from postseason contention last Friday during a 52-33 loss against the Saints, who clinched their fourth consecutive NFC South title.

The Lions (5-10) on Saturday suffered a 47-7 home loss to the Buccaneers, who clinched their first playoff berth since 2007.

Here are five storylines to watch this week presented by Verizon, as well as a link below to the game preview by the Vikings PR staff and a list of connections between the teams.

1. Playing for pride

Minnesota is locked into a third-place finish and Detroit will finish fourth in the NFC North even if the teams finish with identical records because of a tiebreaker based on division records. Each franchise, however, wants to bounce back from Week 16.

"I think the biggest thing is when you get your nose rubbed in it, you've got to come back out and you've got to come back and fight," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. "It's going to show the personality of these players that we have and what they have to do and understand that.

"You go back and you think about when I got to Dallas [in 1994] and they had been winning Super Bowls, all the old players talked about them being 1-15 and all the trials and tribulations they had to go through that year in order to get to that point and how they had to come back and fight and be ready to go the following year and the following year," Zimmer continued. "A lot of that is that you learn how to figure out a way how to make sure that doesn't happen to you ever again."

Safety Harrison Smith, a five-time Pro Bowler who has been instrumental in Zimmer's defense becoming one of the NFL's best over the past few seasons (prior to injuries decimating the unit this year), said the message is to "go out there and compete" with an underlying element of playing better.

"You don't want to put undisciplined play, uninspired play, on film," Smith said. "Put who you see yourself as on film, play hard, be coachable, do what the coaches ask and go out there and play together."

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

2. Call-up opportunity?

The Vikings couldn't improve or adversely affect their playoff position in last season's Week 17 game. Minnesota was sure to be the No. 6 seed, regardless of what happened against Chicago. After deliberation, Zimmer opted to rest most starters in what became a 21-19 loss before an upset victory in New Orleans.

Entering Week 17, there are nine teams that are either 5-10 or 6-9 and seven games involving at least one team with that record, so draft order could be impacted, but five of the games will be played after Minnesota and Detroit wrap their seasons.

Minnesota's defense has been forced to rely on rookies and less-experienced players than the Vikings planned back in August when training camp opened late.

The offense has been able to rely on veterans at the skill positions, with the exception of Kyle Rudolph missing the final four games and landing on Injured Reserve. Minnesota also had a high level of continuity on the offensive line, with the exception of starting four players at right guard.

No team had the benefit of preseason to get young players in-game reps. While the optimism is for the preseason to be back in 2021, this could present an opportunity to make some call-ups.

The Vikings on Tuesday signed rookie offensive lineman Kyle Hinton off their practice squad and could look at the seventh rounder on Sunday. Will they do that at other positions?

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

3. Game of momentum

Adam Thielen's 14 receiving touchdowns this season has increased his career total to 39. His climb to join elite company in franchise record books all began with a 44-yard touchdown catch against Chicago on Dec. 28, 2014.

It was quite the end to his first season on the roster and a sign of things eventually to come, even if he didn't fully begin to break through with increased opportunities in 2016.

Nonetheless, he knows the importance that finishing a season strong can have toward building momentum for the following season.

Wins in regular-season finales in 2014 and 2016 preceded the Vikings winning the NFC North in 2015 and 2017. Minnesota will try to replicate its odd-season success and return to the playoffs next season.

4. Chasing a rookie record

There are numerous personal milestones within reach for Vikings players on Sunday.

The most compelling, arguably, is Justin Jefferson's pursuit of team and NFL rookie receiving yardage records.

The 22nd overall pick already has set the Vikings rookie record for receptions in a season with 79 and is now trying to top the 1,313 receiving yards by Randy Moss, who previously owned the receptions record with 69 catches in 1998.

Jefferson enters Week 16 with 1,267 yards, needing 47 to top Moss. Anquan Boldin set the NFL record with 1,377 receiving yards as a rookie in 2003 to pass Moss, so Jefferson needs 111 to bring that record back to Minnesota. Bill Groman racked up 1,473 with the Houston Oilers in 1960, the AFL's first season.

5. Across the way?

Former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell was promoted to interim head coach after the firing of Matt Patricia earlier this season. Bevell was among multiple coaches who had to miss Saturday's game because of COVID-19 protocols.

He's expected to be back for the finale in an opportunity to make his final case for why he should have the interim tag removed for 2021 and beyond.

The status of Matthew Stafford is another item to keep an eye on. Stafford left Saturday's game with an injury. Chase Daniel, who relieved Stafford in Week 9 against Minnesota when the QB was injured late, and David Blough played against the Buccaneers.

Adrian Peterson and Everson Griffen are two household names for Vikings fans, so it could be another opportunity to see well-liked players take the field in Honolulu Blue. Peterson played just six snaps, rushing four times for 10 yards against Tampa Bay. Griffen played 35 snaps, recording one of Detroit's two sacks on the day.

Local Connections

Vikings LB Eric Wilson (Redford), TE Tyler Conklin (Chesterfield) and return specialist K.J. Osborn (Ypsilanti) are Michigan natives.

Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins grew up in Holland, Michigan, before playing collegiately at Michigan State.

Lions C Frank Ragnow is from Victoria, Minnesota, and starred at Chanhassen High School.

Detroit assistant special teams coach Marquice Williams started his coaching career at Winona State in 2010.

Vikings-Lions Connections

Minnesota T Riley Reiff was selected by Detroit in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He started 69 of the 77 games he played for the Lions and joined the Vikings in 2017.

Vikings RB Ameer Abdullah was drafted by the Lions in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played in 35 games for Detroit before joining Minnesota in November 2018.

Minnesota CB Chris Jones played for Detroit in Week 3 earlier this season.

Lions RB Adrian Peterson is the Vikings franchise leader in numerous records, including career rushing yards (11,747) and touchdowns (97).

Detroit DE Everson Griffen recorded 74.5 sacks in 10 seasons (2010-19) with Minnesota.

Lions CB Justin Coleman spent the 2015 offseason with the Vikings after signing as an undrafted free agent.

Detroit Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell was Minnesota's offensive coordinator from 2006-10.

Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley was the assistant offensive line coach for the Vikings from 2014-16, overlapping with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Co-Defensive Coordinators Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer, assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken, receivers coach Andrew Janocko and quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak.

Professional Connections

Vikings C Brett Jones and Lions DE Romeo Okwara teamed together on the Giants from 2016-17.

Minnesota DT Shamar Stephen and Detroit CB Justin Coleman were teammates in Seattle in 2018.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf worked with Lions Defensive Coordinator Cory Undlin with the Browns and with Lions tight ends coach Ben Johnson with the Dolphins. Undlin, who was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, overlapped with Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu in Jacksonville. Johnson worked with Minnesota defensive backs coach Daronte Jones with the Dolphins.

Lions running backs coach Kyle Caskey worked with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer and Jones in Cincinnati. Detroit receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, Jr., played for Cincinnati when Mike Zimmer and Adam Zimmer were with the Bengals.

Detroit receivers coach Robert Prince worked with Polamalu in Jacksonville.

Lions defensive line coach Bo Davis worked with Vikings assistant defensive backs coach Roy Anderson at LSU and senior defensive assistant Dom Capers with the Dolphins.

College Connections

Vikings S Anthony Harris and Lions OL Oday Aboushi teamed at Virginia.

Minnesota WR Dan Chisena overlapped at Penn State with Detroit LB Jason Cabinda and CB Amani Oruwariye.

Vikings LB Ryan Connelly and Lions WR Quintez Cephus teamed at Wisconsin.

Minnesota LB Troy Dye and Detroit T Tyrell Crosby were teammates at Oregon.

Vikings DE Jalyn Holmes overlapped at Ohio State with Lions T Taylor Decker and CB Jeff Okudah [IR].

Minnesota WR Chad Beebe and Detroit WR Kenny Golladay teamed at Northern Illinois.

Vikings TE Irv Smith, Jr., and Lions DT Da'Shawn Hand [IR] were teammates at Alabama.

Minnesota DT Armon Watts overlapped at Arkansas with Detroit C Frank Ragnow and T Dan Skipper.

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