EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings have reached the penultimate game of the 2018 regular season.
Minnesota finishes up its road slate Sunday in Detroit as the 7-6-1 Vikings look to improve their likelihood of making the playoffs.
Kickoff is noon (CT) at Ford Field. The Vikings are currently the sixth seed in the NFC Playoff picture.
The Lions (5-9) are out of playoff contention and in last place in the NFC North.
Minnesota has won two straight against Detroit. A Vikings win would mean the first three-game win streak against the Lions since the 2009/2010 seasons.
Here are three areas to watch in Sunday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:
Stay in the moment | By @Eric_L_Smith
The Vikings need three things to happen in Week 16 if they want to secure a playoff berth.
Washington needs to lose to Tennessee on Saturday afternoon, the Vikings need to win and Philadelphia needs to lose at home to Houston. The Eagles play at the same time as the Vikings.
And while all of those scenarios are certainly plausible, Minnesota's sole focus should be on its game against Detroit. Don't worry about what happens Saturday, or what is happening when the Eagles are playing at the same time on Sunday.
If the Vikings win, and the other scenarios fall into place, great. But that can't happen without a win at Ford Field.
Minnesota can secure a third playoff berth in four seasons with wins in Week 16 and 17. But you can't win two games unless you win the first one.
Sheldon Richardson has the right attitude.
"Can't worry about them, got to worry about us," Richardson said. "We control our own destiny."
Keeping the run game going | By @LindseyMNSports
In Kevin Stefanski's first game as the Vikings interim offensive coordinator, Minnesota racked up season highs in rushing yards (220) and carries (40). Will that type of ground success carry over this week at Detroit?
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this week that running against the Lions will be more difficult than the Dolphins made it last week.
The Dolphins currently rank 31st in the league in rushing defense. Entering Sunday's divisional matchup, the Lions rank 16th.
"They are doing a much better job against the run. They're physical inside. They cover the three-guards a lot, walk up [linebacker 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," Zimmer said. "The two safeties get involved. They're good players. I think the two linebackers plug our guys pretty much, have some physicality to them. They're not giving them very many big runs. They're giving up some short, short, might be eight. But they've done a nice job with that."
10 sacks | By @pcraigers
The Vikings racked up a franchise record 10 sacks against the Lions in the first meeting between the teams this season. The 10-spot gives Minnesota 61 of Stafford in 17 games, the most by any team.
Stafford has been sacked a total of 326 times in 139 career games, meaning the 61 sacks by Minnesota account for 18.7 percent of the times he's been taken down in 12.2 percent of his games.
It was Stafford's first game without Golden Tate, who played for the Lions from 2014 until he was traded to the Eagles, and it seemed to affect the quarterback.
Will Detroit have had time to adjust its protections or design quicker throws from Stafford to other players? Will the Vikings be able to create some free runners on blitzes?
First-year Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia said playing against the Vikings pass rush is a "huge challenge for us."
"Minnesota has a phenomenal front, and those guys do a great job of rushing and getting after the quarterback," Patricia said. "Certainly from a standpoint of scheme and Coach Zimmer putting together a great disguise package and pressure package, it put us in a tough situation with the score.
"It kind of all combined and put us in a situation where we're trying to throw the ball, and those guys were able to get off really well and get after the quarterback," Patricia said. "They've been able to do that against quite a few teams. They did it at a high level against us, and they were able to do it against Miami this past weekend. … They just do a great job with the different packages they run, and it's hard to pick it all up."
View pregame images as the Vikings get set to take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.
— Stefon Diggs is just 36 receiving yards away from 1,000. If Diggs gets there, he'll join Adam Thielen as the first pair of Vikings wide receivers to each have 1,000 receiving yards in the same season since Hall of Famers Randy Moss and Cris Carter in 2000.
— The Lions have nine losses on the season, meaning they cannot finish with an above .500 record. Detroit has finished .500 or worse 15 times in the past 20 seasons.
— Minnesota is 73-39-2 all-time against Detroit, and the 73 wins are the most by the Vikings against an opponent in franchise history.
— Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is averaging 242.5 passing yards per game this season, his lowest average over the past eight seasons. Stafford is on pace for 3,880 passing yards, which would be his lowest total when he's started all 16 games in a season.
"You kind of create the scenario for yourself. You want to play in big games. Ultimately, if you keep playing, each game is big. That's what you sign up for."
— Harrison Smith on trying to get into the playoffs.