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Vikings must fill voids on D-line against Lions

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Linval Joseph is expecting some things to be different Sunday when the Vikings close out their season series with the Lions.

Minnesota controlled the line of scrimmage on defense and offense in Week 2 and will attempt to do the same a little more than a month after their first meeting.

"Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen wrote in a blog earlier this week that Joseph's dominant performance in Week 2 might prompt the Lions to double-team the defensive tackle.

"We had a pretty good all-around game the last time we played Detroit," Joseph said. I'm excited to play Detroit again. It should be different, but I can't wait for the challenge."

While that remains to be seen if Detroit will double-team Joseph, one thing is certain: Joseph's starting partner on the interior of the line, Sharrif Floyd, has been ruled out, along with defensive end Justin Trattou, who recorded his first career interception in Week 2. Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen's season ended earlier this week with a foot injury that led to his placement on injured reserve.

The Vikings are likely to turn to veteran Tom Johnson, who has played well in the Vikings nickel package, to fill in for Floyd, who made a tackle for loss on a critical fourth-and-1 against Kansas City and played through an ankle/foot injury to finish the game.

"Tom is playing well, playing good ball right now," Joseph said. "I'm glad he's healthy and he's next to me. The communication and everything is good. We're excited and ready to go."

Johnson finished second on the team with 6.5 sacks in 2014, his first season in Minnesota. The Vikings were able to re-sign him to a multiyear deal this offseason. He has 1.0 sack and 10 quarterback hurries.

"I think Tom has played good all year," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said this week. "He did a great job in the preseason and did a good job all year. I think we should be fine."

When the Vikings placed Stephen on IR they also signed veteran defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, who spent his first four seasons with the New York Jets and some time this season with the New York Giants.

"I think he's got a chance to be a pretty good nose tackle," Zimmer said. "He's strong, has got good quickness, is massive and he moves good. That position, there's not a lot of learning, and the system is similar to what he's had before, so he's more learning the stunts and blitzes and things like that."

Digging Diggs: Vikings rookie receiver Stefon Diggs was chosen in a fan vote as Pepsi Rookie of the Week following his first NFL start. Diggs recorded seven catches for 129 yards (18.4 per catch) against the Chiefs when he was also chosen for the Vikings Bridgestone Performance of the Week. Diggs recorded three of his receptions on third downs to extend drives against Kansas City. Diggs was selected over teammate Eric Kendricks and three other 2015 draft classmates.

Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell was asked this week about Diggs, whom he knew off while with the Ravens during part of Diggs' time at Maryland.

"Obviously he's a guy that can make plays, a very good route runner and makes tough catches, a pretty impressive guy coming out of Maryland," Caldwell said. "They've had a string of really good receivers that have come out of Maryland and played very well. I'm familiar with Torrey Smith, who was with us in Baltimore. They've done a nice job, and he seems to be falling right in line with those guys that can give you all kinds of problems with the ball in his hand."

Rhodes vs. Johnson again: The Vikings have had Xavier Rhodes shadow Calvin Johnson some since last season, helping minimize damage done by the receiver. The Lions have moved Johnson to multiple places on the field this season

"We know that Calvin is the guy they're going to try to go up top with and try to get the big passes on," Rhodes said. "That was the goal to eliminate that and make them go short because they're going to find a way to get him the ball. You have to eliminate the big plays, not only on Calvin but the other guys."

Zimmer said Friday he's gone against Johnson "way too many times."

"He's just so good at everything – running the routes, catching the ball, getting open, using his size, his speed, out-jumping," Zimmer said. "When I was in Cincinnati we had three guys around him and he threw up a 50-yard ball and he went up and got it for a touchdown. I've been well aware of him for a long, long time. And I know people use these terms loosely as one of the greatest receivers, but he really is with the things that he can do and the way he can go get the football. He's got tremendous hands. Even some of the catches that he makes that aren't inbounds are fantastic catches. He's someone you always have to pay attention to, yeah."

Zimmer has coached against Johnson a total of four times (twice while with Cincinnati; twice here so far). Johnson had 15 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns in two games against the Bengals and has 14 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings.

Injury reports: Aside from Floyd and Trattou, all other Vikings are listed as probable for Sunday's game.

For the Lions, LB DeAndre Levy (hip) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (knee/elbow) have been ruled out. CB Josh Wilson is questionable. Click here for the fully injury reports.

ICYMI: The recently released episode of A Football Life: Alan Page will re-air at 5 p.m. (CT) Saturday on NFL Network. Page sounded the Gjallarhorn before the Vikings defeated the Lions in Week 2.

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