The Vikings will take their two-game winning streak on the road this weekend and will challenge the Detroit Lions at Ford Field as they search for their first NFC North win. Detroit is coming off a bitter Monday Night Football loss to Green Bay and will be anxious to take out their frustrations on a different division rival.
Here are five Vikings-Lions storylines to watch this week.
1. Vikings will bring balanced offensive attack to Detroit
In their 38-20 win over Philadelphia, the Vikings demonstrated an ability to move the ball and score points even when Dalvin Cook wasn't running loose. Through the first five games, Cook was clearly the bread and butter of the Vikings offense but last Sunday it was Kirk Cousins who paced the attack. The veteran quarterback threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, with Stefon Diggs as the featured act. Diggs came down with seven receptions for 167 yards and three touchdowns, plus Cousins spread 15 other completions around to six other receivers along the way to generating a passer rating of 138.4 in what was one of his finest performances as a member of the Vikings. This offensive balance will serve the Vikings well throughout the rest of the season and it will be interesting to see how a good Lions defense reacts on Sunday.
2. Lions look to score first touchdown versus Vikings since 2017
The Vikings defense is playing lights out in 2019. They've yet to allow more than 21 points in a game and are surrendering only 15.5 points per contest, they are allowing a stingy 4.8 yards per play and they are second in the League in tackles for loss (34). You don't have to tell the Lions how good the Vikings defense is, though, because Matthew Stafford and Co. failed to score a touchdown against the Vikings in 2018. Of the Lions 20 drives of consequence against the Vikings a season ago, 14 ended in punts or some kind of turnover and six resulted in field goals.
3. Stafford set to face Vikings in top form
Although Detroit failed to find the end zone against the Vikings in 2018, you can pardon this year's Lions offense from failing much more confident as a group. With Darrell Bevell in his first year as offensive coordinator in Detroit, Stafford is having arguably his finest season. He's having career-best seasons in passer rating (99.1), yards per attempt (8.0), air yards per attempt (7.0), yards per completion (13.1), sack percentage (5.5), touchdown percentage (5.2) and interception percentage (1.2). Stafford doesn't have some of the gaudy box scores he had when Calvin Johnson was his main target, but his efficiency and overall play is improved.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Lions.
4. Vikings offensive keeps plugging away
The 38-point outburst and balanced attack produced by the Vikings offense was impressive enough on its own. Add in the fact that starting right guard Josh Kline didn't play and starting left tackle Riley Reiff was lost early in the game and it becomes an even more impressive accomplishment. Reserves Dakota Dozier and Rashod Hill stepped in and played admirably against the Eagles and the offensive coaching staff will look to have both linemen ready to play this week against what has become a very stout Lions defensive front. Meanwhile, the Vikings will remain optimistic their two starters will work their way back into the lineup, hopefully in time for Sunday's NFC North showdown.
5. Vikings and Lions know touchdowns, not field goals, win games
Together, Vikings kicker Dan Bailey (eight of nine) and Lions kicker Matt Prater (12 of 14) are 20 of 23 on field goals this season. They've been reliable and productive in their roles. But you can be sure both Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia will be aggressive in pursuing touchdowns over field goals on Sunday. In their two contests against one another last season, the Vikings had eight scoring drives and the Lions had six, yet the Vikings outscored the Lions 51-12 in those two games. The difference was Detroit settled for field goals on all six of their scoring drives while the Vikings found the end zone five times on offense and once on defense. Last week in Green Bay, the Lions settled for field goals five times, including twice inside the Green Bay 10. Yes, it's great to watch your kicker bang the ball through the uprights, but you want that to be following a touchdown, not in lieu of one.