EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings aren't taking this one against the Lions for granted.
And nor should they, as Minnesota is just one win above Detroit in the standings.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's squad enters Week 5 ready for its first divisional test of the season. Minnesota (1-3) hosts Detroit (0-4) at noon (CT) Sunday.
"They've been close," Zimmer said. "They scored 31 against San Francisco, had a chance to beat Baltimore, went right down the field against Chicago twice [before turning] the ball over.
"So we're going to have to be on our Ps and Qs," Zimmer added.
Dalvin Cook, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, added: "You can't let a team's record or anything they have going on dictate how you go play or prepare for a game. It's the NFL, any given Sunday you could lose. They've been in some close games. … We've got to prepare and get ready to go play a good football team."
The Vikings are looking to bounce back from another close this season. Minnesota's three losses are by a combined 11 points, including last week's 14-7 loss to Cleveland. The Vikings are the only team in the NFL with three losses in one-score games this season.
Detroit, meanwhile, has a pair of losses by one possession or less.
And as the Vikings enter Week 5, they know what is at stake as October rolls along.
According to stats provided by NFL Media Research, teams that started 2-3 (in a 16-game season between 1990 and 2020) made the playoffs 21.3 percent of the time.
But a 1-4 start in that same timeframe meant a postseason appearance just 7.3 percent of the time.
If the Vikings want to dig themselves out of another early-season hole, the first step lies ahead against the Lions.
Minnesota enters Sunday's game with a seven-game win streak over Detroit, which is tied for the third-longest by the Vikings in the series.
Here is what Eric Smith, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters of Vikings.com will be watching in Week 5:
Facing another dynamic duo at RB | By @Eric\_L\_Smith
Another week, another potent running back duo for the Vikings to prepare for.
And while Detroit's combo of D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams aren't as lethal as Cleveland's Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, they can do plenty of damage.
Williams leads the Lions with 42 carries for 187 yards and two scores, while Swift has added 41 attempts for 139 yards and a score.
But the latter is more lethal through the air, as he has 23 catches for 199 yards and a score.
"It just adds another dimension to the offense," Zimmer said of the versatility. "Swift is very, very good at catching the football.
"Williams does a nice job, as well. It's hard to overload coverages when you've got guys that do that, depending on where they're going," Zimmer added. "And then you get some 1-on-1 matchups with the linebackers, too."
The onus will be on the Vikings defense to track those two in all facets, especially as Minnesota tries to shore up a run defense that has allowed 100-plus yards in each game so far in 2021.
"It's a good 1-2 punch," said Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer. "I think Williams is more of a downhill runner. He's more physical. I'm not saying Swift won't stick his nose in there, but I think Swift likes to get out on the perimeter. He's a really good receiver out of the backfield."
The Vikings will be facing the Lions attack without nose tackle Michael Pierce, who was ruled out Friday.
View photos of Vikings players from practice on Oct. 7 at the TCO Performance Center.
Getting ready for Goff | By @LindseyMNSports
For just the second time since 2009, the Vikings will be preparing for a Lions QB other than Matthew Stafford.
Stafford played 23 games against Minnesota over his career in Detroit, missing only one contest in 2019 in which David Blough started in his place. Stafford was traded this offseason to the Los Angeles Rams, who sent Jared Goff and a draft pick to the Motor City.
Goff may be wearing a different shade of blue now, but the Vikings still are familiar with the quarterback.
"Goff is a big guy that is very accurate, has a big arm," Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer said.
Zimmer explained he sees some overlap between Goff's play now and that of when he was with the Rams.
"The big arm, he'll move around in the pocket a little bit to throw," Zimmer said. "He's a big body in there; he's not afraid to stand in there and the pocket and take a shot. … The offenses are a little different than with [Rams Head Coach Sean] McVay than what he's doing with [Lions Offensive Coordinator] Anthony Lynn, but there are some similarities."
Through four games, Goff is 110-of-161 passing for 1,100 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions with a passer rating of 96.8. He has yet to win a career game under a coach under than McVay, but that doesn't mean the Vikings are underestimating the QB who defeated them in L.A. in 2018.
"He brings a big challenge," said safety Harrison Smith.
Identify and communicate | By @pcraigers
The Vikings offense is looking to bounce back from going scoreless in the final 52 minutes against the Browns.
Minnesota has scored touchdowns on each of its opening drives in the past three games and will look to continue that against Detroit.
The Lions have been incorporating elements of 3-4 and 4-3 base defenses to change things up on offenses.
"You've got to make sure you get on the same page," Mike Zimmer said. "They bring a lot of pressure from different areas. I think the safeties do a good job of disguising. They hold the disguise a long time. It's just different identifications, really."
Center Garrett Bradbury will be tasked with much of the identification and relaying to members of the offensive line. Bradbury said the Vikings defense's experimentation with a few new looks during training camp could help.
"We got work [against] it this fall, and some of the teams we've played this year have gone multiple 3-4, 4-3, things like that," Bradbury said. "You've just got to communicate. You have to know what personnel is on the field, what personnel we have, and make sure everyone's on the same page."
Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak agreed.
"It makes for a lot more communication at the line of scrimmage, and thankfully we got a lot of that from Coach Zimmer this spring in OTAs," Kubiak said. "I feel like we have some reps at it, but it does make things, a few more unknowns when you approach the line of scrimmage, but that's why Garrett is so valuable; does a great job of getting us into the right calls."
Notable Number: 8
Everson Griffen has recorded at least 1.0 sack in each of his past eight home games against the Lions, accounting for 8.5 of his 16 career sacks in 19 games against Detroit.