NFL Expert Picks: Vikings the Favorite Over the Lions?

The Vikings (7-6-1) are back on the right track heading into the final two games of the regular season.

Minnesota enters Week 16 in control of its own destiny following a victory over the Miami Dolphins during Week 15.

Minnesota will take on the Detroit Lions (5-9) on at noon on Sunday at Ford Field.

The Lions are a much different team than the one that the Vikings defeated 24-9 at U.S. Bank Stadium earlier in the season.

Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receiver Marvin Jones are inactive for the game.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has also been impressed by the improved defensive front of the Lions.

“I think they are playing a lot better,” Zimmer said. “They are doing a much better job against the run. They’re physical inside. They cover the three-guards a lot, walk up [Devon] Kennard on the end of the line of scrimmage so they’re playing a four-down front but it’s really a three-four principles with what they’re doing.”

The Lions lost last week in a tight game to the Buffalo Bills 14-13 in a game where they did not score in the second half.

Detroit is officially out of the playoff picture and will look to play spoiler against the Vikings this week.

Minnesota would be the No. 6 seed in the NFC Playoffs if the postseason started this week and the team currently sits a half a game behind the Seattle Seahawks for the first Wild Card seed in the NFC.

Experts across the internet submitted their predictions to all NFL games ahead of the much anticipated Week 16 slate.

Let’s see what is expected in the Vikings game against quarterback Matt Stafford and the Lions.

Vikings 23, Lions 20 (OT), Elliot Harrison, NFL.com

Mike Zimmer is trying to build the same legacy that Bud Grant was able forge to back then, but despite having a superior squad on paper, he's hanging on to wild-card hopes at 7-6-1. The Redskins and Eagles are nipping at the heels of the Viking playoff ship, so consider this weekend's game in Detroit a must-win for Minnesota. You might recall that Dalvin Cook returned against the Lions back in Week 9 after missing a month due to injury and ripped off that 70-yard run. Yeah, well, Snacks Harrison wasn't on the field for that play. Rushing yards might be harder to come by, which means Kirk Cousins must pull himself out of this November/December slump. He's really only balled out once during that time frame (the home win over the Packers).

Vikings 27, Lions 16, Bleacher Report Staff

The Detroit Lions are down and out. They've been officially eliminated from playoff contention, they're coming off an ugly loss to the Bills, and running back Kerryon Johnson—one of the few bright spots for the Lions this season—has been placed on injured reserve.

So it wasn't hard for our analysts to get behind the Minnesota Vikings for Sunday's matchup between the NFC North rivals, especially considering the jolt the Vikings appeared to get last week from an offensive coordinator change.

"That obviously played into the team's favor during Kevin Stefanski's first game calling the plays," Sobleski noted. "Minnesota scored 41 points and showed far better balance with 220 rushing yards compared to 198 yards through the air. No team can keep that kind of pace running the football. However, the threat of doing so instead of constantly dropping Kirk Cousins back to pass makes the Vikings far more dangerous."

Minnesota wasn't lacking that balance when it easily beat the Lions (who had Johnson) 24-9 at home last month, and there's little reason to believe they can't spot Detroit 5.5 points and still easily cover on Sunday.

"Detroit is putting too much on Matthew Stafford's shoulders," Gagnon said, "and the Vikings pass defense has just steamrolled Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill the last two weeks. There's no reason to expect a different outcome here."

The Vikings scored 30 points in a victory at Ford Field last year, and with a playoff spot up for grabs, they might be the only inspired team when the two meet there in Week 16.

Vikings 24, Lions 13, Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

The Vikings won’t be able to run as easily on the Lions this week on the road, but Kirk Cousins will use plenty of Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook in the passing game to exploit all of the host’s major coverage weaknesses away from Darius Slay. The Lions’ anemic offense will continue without the threat of Kerryon Johnson in the backfield, and the combination of Mackensie Alexander in the slot and Xavier Rhodes outside will slow down Kenny Golladay.

Vikings 28, Lions 10, Tadd Haislop, Sporting News

The Vikings are done with outdoor games this season until the playoffs — if they make it. Even with that being so, they picked a good time to re-commit to the running game. They’ll need it against the spoiler-minded Lions this week, and they’ll need it even more against the Bears next week in what could be a win-and-in scenario. And that’s before Minnesota has to play a potential wild-card playoff game on the road, likely outdoors.

Vikings 19, Lions 16, Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

The Vikings got the running game going last week against Miami, and will want to do so again here. But the Lions are good against the run, which will make this a Kirk Cousins game. He won't need to get much since the Vikings defense will limit the Detroit offense. The Vikings win it, but it's close.

Vikings 24, Lions 20, Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports

Can the Dolphins maintain momentum in the wake of the Miami Miracle? This game is enormous for both teams; the Dolphins are tied with the No. 6 Ravens but trail only on tiebreakers (along with the Colts and Titans). Their schedule isn't terrible — after the Vikings, they face the Jaguars and Bills -— but a loss would all but end their hopes of January football. The Vikings are coming off an embarrassing loss on "Monday Night Football." So embarrassing, in fact, that Mike Zimmer fired first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Minnesota's offense is a mess, Kirk Cousins has stumbled through the last month or so, and the running game is nonexistent. And yet, Minnesota appears to be the only team interested in the NFC's sixth seed.

Vikings 30, Lions 21, Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports

The Vikings beat the Dolphins last week to maintain their razor-thin hold on the NFC's sixth seed. They definitely need to win in Detroit and will probably have to beat the Bears in Week 17 to remain a playoff team. The Lions' season is effectively over; in Matt Patrica's first year the team is 5-9 after Jim Caldwell went 9-7 in back-to-back campaigns. If Minnesota can't find a way to beat Detroit it doesn't deserve to go to the playoffs, especially given its newfound interest in running the ball coupled with the Lions' 31st-ranked defense.

Vikings 23, Lions 14, Mike Florio, Smith Pro Football Talk

Kevin Stefanski continues to do what John DeFilippo didn’t. And it continues to work, for now.

The Vikings should have a few new wrinkles in their offense this week, and I expect them to make some big plays in the passing game to beat the Dolphins.

Vikings Pregame Win Percentage: 62.3 %, Average Score: Vikings 25.9, Lions 21.9, FOX Sports.com

WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine generates predictions and box scores for every NFL game for FOX Sports for the coming week. The highly sophisticated algorithms simulate every play of every game to produce each team's likelihood to win. Each matchup is simulated 501 times.

Vikings Pregame Win Percentage: 55 %, FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight’s 2018 NFL forecast uses an Elo-based model to calculate each team’s chances of winning each game of the season.

9 of 9 experts picked the Vikings, SB Nation

8 of 8 experts picked the Vikings, CBS Sports

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