The Vikings will look to all but ice away the NFC North today as they take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in a Thanksgiving Day showdown. With a win, the Vikings would be three games up on the second-place Lions with just five games remaining for both teams. However, wins against the Lions have been tough to come by for the Vikings in recent years, as the team carries a three-game losing streak with them into Ford Field today.
As Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson explained on this week's "Vikings GamePlan," the defensive has played well enough to win in most of these matchups but has failed to make that game-ending play in the final minutes, and thus the Lions have been able to emerge, in most cases, with late victories.
As it was during the 14-7 loss earlier this year to the Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium, scoring against Detroit's defense has been an issue. Last season, the Vikings scored 16 and 13 points in the two losses to Detroit, with those two games ultimately deciding who made the playoffs and who didn't, as the Lions made the dance by going 9-7, and the Vikings finding themselves on the outside looking in at 8-8.
In recent weeks, scoring has certainly not been an issue for the Vikings offense, which has been rolling with Case Keenum at the helm. In recent weeks though, it's become clear that the strength of the offense lies surprisingly with the offensive line, which of course was the group that really held the Vikings back a season ago. Unlike last year, the Vikings can get three, four and five yards at a crack pretty regularly, whereas last year it was a frequent struggle to get even a yard at times.
Former Vikings player and coach Pete Bercich outlined on "Vikings GamePlan" this week how the Lions run defense has struggled in recent weeks. The Bears and Browns have each put up over 200 yards on the ground against Detroit over the past two weeks. So, between that and the Vikings ground game gaining traction with both Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, there could be money to be made there for the Vikings.
Keenum and the entire offense has done a great job of securing the ball, which is another thing that's been an issue against the Lions during the Vikings' recent struggles. Dalvin Cook's fumble on the pay he tore his ACL earlier this year turned that contest around, and a Sam Bradford interception sealed the team's fate in last year's Thanksgiving Day loss.
On the other side of the ball, one big change with the Lions from the first game this season is the addition of LT Taylor Decker, who missed several games to start the season with a shoulder injury. Since his return, the Lions offense has clicked into gear, with Matthew Stafford completing over 70 percent of his throws and posting a 127.1 quarterback rating.
Patterson also noted in the above video that in recent years, Stafford has gained the ability to move from the pocket and gain yards on the ground, which is not something he's always had in his toolkit. That certainly makes life tough on a defense and will force the Vikings pass-rushers to play a disciplined game today.
On the injury front, the Vikings are relatively healthy heading into the game, with all injured players being full participants in Wednesday's walk-thru practice. T Mike Remmers, DE Brian Robison and S Andrew Sendejo are all listed as questionable after missing last week's game.
Of note for the Lions, DE Ezekiel Ansah was limited in practice all week with a back issue and is questionable. Their high-end punt return man, Jamal Agnew, is out with a knee injury.
Stay with vikings.com and the Vikings App all day for game coverage, including live postgame press conferences from Ford Field.