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Vikings at Lions Game Preview

EAGAN, Minn. — The NFC Playoffs are still materializing as the Vikings and Lions each have something to play for in Week 18, albeit both teams' postseason pictures are likely solidified.

Entering the final week of the regular season, Dallas, Philadelphia and Detroit are vying for the No. 2 seed.

For Minnesota, the Vikings must beat the Lions and have victories by the Bears and Cardinals, as well as a win by the Falcons (or Panthers). According to Next Gen Stats, the Vikings have a 3-percent chance to reach the postseason. That number jumps to 9-percent with a victory.

Kickoff is set for noon (CT).

Vikings Uniform

The Vikings will wear their traditional road uniforms with white jerseys and purple pants.

4 Storylines

  1. What is on the line? The Vikings need each of the following to make the playoffs. First, they need to defeat the Lions. Then, have the Bears defeat the Packers and the Cardinals top the Seahawks. Additionally, either the Falcons must defeat the Saints or the Panthers must upset the Buccaneers.

Both NFC South games start at noon (CT). The Bears-Packers and Seahawks-Cardinals have 3:25 p.m. (CT) starts. So, if the noon games go the Vikings way, Minnesota will be scoreboard watching into the evening.

The Vikings are competing with the Packers (8-8), Seahawks (8-8), Saints (8-8) and current NFC South-leading Buccaneers (8-8) for the final NFC playoff spot. Currently the No. 7 seed, Green Bay can clinch with a win, or through a few other scenarios.

According to Next Gen Stats, the Lions have a 95-percent chance to remain the NFC's No. 3 seed. To reach No. 2, the Lions need to win and have the Cowboys (at Commanders) and Eagles (at Giants) lose.

  1. Back to Nick Mullens: Four quarterbacks have started multiple games for the Vikings for the first time in franchise history. Last week, Jaren Hall made his second career start but was pulled at halftime for Nick Mullens. Neither quarterback could spark the offense as Minnesota fluttered to a 33-10 loss. It was the team's first loss by more than seven points this season.

On Wednesday, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell announced Mullens will start the regular-season finale. Mullens is 0-2 as a starter this year, but he has thrown for 300-plus yards and two or more touchdowns in each game. The Vikings scored 24 points (Week 15 at Bengals and Week 16 versus Lions) in each of Mullens' starts.

  1. Justin Jefferson chasing 1,000 yards: Justin Jefferson's injury-riddled season can end on a high note versus a team he averages more than 120 receiving yards per game against.

Jefferson is 118 yards away from the century mark, despite missing seven games due to a hamstring injury suffered in Week 5. He played just three series in his Week 14 return against the Raiders before exiting the game and not returning due to a chest injury.

Mullens and Jefferson have combined for at least six catches and 80 yards in each of their two games together. Jefferson has recorded 100-plus receiving yards in five of seven games against the Lions, including a career high 223-yard outing at Detroit in Week 14 last season to break the franchise record in a regular-season game.

Ravens receiver (and fellow LSU alumni) Odell Beckham, Jr., faced a similar situation in 2019. In his first season with the Browns, Beckham needed 46 receiving yards to reach 1,000 entering Cleveland's final regular-season game. Beckham caught three passes for 81 yards in the contest, finishing the season with 1,035 yards.

With 118 yards, Jefferson would become only the fifth player in league history to start his career with four-straight 1,000-yard seasons, joining Hall of Famer Randy Moss, as well as A.J. Green, Mike Evans and Michael Thomas.

  1. Injury update: The Vikings enter Week 18 depleted on defense. Minnesota played last week without starters D.J. Wonnum and Byron Murphy, Jr. Wonnum landed on season-ending Injured Reserve after suffering a quad injury against Detroit, while Murphy missed the previous two games with a knee injury.

O'Connell said Wonnum's surgery was successful.

Murphy did not participate in Wednesday's walk-through session, but O'Connell said he considers him questionable throughout the week.

Guard Ed Ingram suffered a shoulder injury versus the Packers and did not finish the game. He was limited at Wednesday's practice, and O'Connell is hopeful he'll be available Sunday.

Jalen Nailor and Jaquelin Roy were both out last week and have not yet returned to practice.

3 Things 'Bout the Lions

  1. Controversial Week 17 loss: Detroit lost 20-19 at Dallas on Saturday night amidst controversy.

Down seven, the Lions drove 75 yards and scored with seconds to play at Dallas. The Lions went for the win, scoring via a 2-point grab by left tackle Taylor Decker.

But officials flagged the Lions for illegal formation, nullifying the conversion and launching a debate as to whether Decker properly reported as an eligible receiver.

After a 5-yard markoff, a conversion pass that was intercepted was negated by an encroachment penalty on Dallas. An incompletion shy of the goal line on the next snap finished the game.

Dallas moved to the No. 2 spot with a tiebreaker on Detroit. The loss netted Detroit the No. 3 spot. The Rams are currently the No. 6 seed but could drop to the No. 7 seed with a loss and a Packers win. If current seeding remains, Los Angeles will travel to Ford Field to face the Lions in the Wild Card Round.

  1. Inspired or Rested Lions: Quarterback Jared Goff has never played in the week leading up to the first playoff game of a season. He rested in 2017 and 2020 ahead of the Wild Card Rounds while with the Rams. Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell, however, said his starters will play on Sunday.

"We've gotta go finish off strong," Campbell said Wednesday. "We need to go out and play good, clean, solid, competitive football against an opponent that is going to give us everything they've got."

With 245 passing yards, Goff can join Matthew Stafford (three times) as the only Lions quarterbacks to throw for 4,500-plus yards in a season. He is two passing scores away from reaching 30-plus touchdowns for the second time in his eight-year career.

  1. Still running the football: *Both Lions running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs have over 900 rushing yards, 1,000-plus scrimmage yards and more than 10 total touchdowns this season. They are the only teammates with 900-plus rushing yards apiece in 2023. *

If Montgomery has 25 or more rushing yards and Gibbs gains more than 85 rushing yards, they will become the first running-back duo, each with 1,000-plus rushing yards since 2009.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 7, 2024.

2 Trends

Can Vikings defense bounce back?

Since the fourth quarter of Week 15 against the Bengals, the Vikings defense has allowed 11 offensive touchdowns. Last week, quarterback Jordan Love accounted for a career-high four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).

Two weeks ago, the Lions scored four touchdowns, three total between Montgomery and Gibbs, and one Goff passing touchdown.

Despite the recent nine-quarter trend, the Vikings defense still ranks 12th in points allowed per game (20.8) and 10th in yards allowed per play (5.1).

Lions to host playoff game

Regardless of Sunday's outcomes, the Lions will host their first playoff game since 1993. It will be the Lions postseason debut for Ford Field, which opened in 2002 and hosted Super Bowl XL.

1 Talking Point

"Of course we're just going to keep battling. We're just going to do what we can control. We can control it by going into this week strong, by the preparation that we have, and just come in on game day and just winning. That's what it comes down to. Hopefully, if God blesses, we can make that playoff run and anything can happen."

— Justin Jefferson on his Week 18 mindset


T.J. Hockenson (Injured Reserve) and Brandon Powell are former Lions. Minnesota running backs coach/run game coordinator Curtis Modkins was with Detroit from 2013-15.

Lions quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was with the Vikings from 2014-17, and offensive line coach Hank Fraley was a Vikings assistant from 2014-16.

College and Pro Connections


Series History

The Vikings are 80-42-2 in 124 matchups, but the Lions have won three of the past four.