The Vikings on Sunday will face their first division opponent of the season.
After watching film on Minnesota in preparation for the matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium, Detroit has its eyes on all aspects of the Vikings game.
The Lions have faced a fairly similar Vikings defense over the past three seasons and know how damaging it can be.
"They definitely present a lot of challenges, and it's not only their scheme, which is tough to prepare for, but their players, as well," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford told Detroit media members earlier this week. "They've got a bunch of first-round draft picks on that defense, a bunch of really talented guys.
"They do a great job of getting after the quarterback, they stop the run on the way there, and [they have] guys in the backend who are really tied together," Stafford continued. "They play well off of each other, they've got a great mix of young guys who can really run [and] some veteran guys who are back there, too, that can just keep everybody aligned and get them going. It's always a challenge. Obviously a challenge going to play them at their place, as well – an extremely loud environment where they play well."
Stafford has been sacked 42 times in 14 outings against the Vikings. No team has taken down the passer more times (the Packers and Bears have 29 and 31 sacks of Stafford, respectively). Of Minnesota's sacks, 8.5 have been credited to Everson Griffen.
Lions Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter called Griffen "a phenomenal player."
"Really high energy, pass rusher, run player, physical, fast. Kind of checks all the boxes in the positive category," Cooter said. "This guy's a really good player. In this league, playing tackle against really good edge rushers is a high-level challenge, and that's what we're going to see this week for both our guys."
It isn't just Minnesota's defense that Detroit is preparing for, however.
Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell discussed the multiple aspects he's seen in the Vikings offense under Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur.
"They're doing a little bit of everything. I think they've always been really good in terms of accuracy and getting the ball out to receivers that can run with it, and a good, strong running game," Caldwell said.
He added that running backs Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon pose problems in the backfield but that the passing game is something to be aware of, as well.
"[They're] also throwing the ball down the field with more regularity, and certainly it's more effective because [Stefon] Diggs is having a great year, and Adam [Thielen is] doing great on the other side," Caldwell said. "You can't ever discount — [Kyle] Rudolph has been exceptional throughout the years.
"I think they're doing a great job of changing things up," Caldwell said. "They've got balance, they've got the power running game, the finesse running game, they can throw the ball several different ways. It's a talented team."
Here are some other highlights of what the Lions had to say about the Vikings this week:
Stafford on Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes
"He's a really good player. He's a big, physical guy. He gets his hands on receivers really well; he's got great long speed, good size, instincts, plays the ball well in the air. A really good corner, ascending player, and has been playing better and better every year when you see him on tape."
Caldwell on Vikings T Riley Reiff, formerly with the Lions
"He may be one of the best men I've been around, a tremendous person. I loved working with him through the years. I'm not certain you'll find a tougher guy mentally and physically, just one of my all-time favorites."
Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin on Vikings offense
"Oh, they're doing a great job. Those guys are really moving the ball well. They're throwing the ball down the field, they're giving those guys opportunities to make plays on deep balls, and they're taking advantage of it. Their running back (Dalvin Cook) obviously helps because you've got to really try to stack the box so he just doesn't run wild, and that gives them some 1-on-1 opportunities outside. And they're taking advantage of it.
"It looks different, very well-rounded, still balanced. Nothing in terms of big tendencies – we're going to throw it a whole bunch here, we're going to run it a whole bunch here. So they do a really good job. And it's going to be a really good battle test for us in terms of how we respond to them."
Austin on Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
"If you have a guy that comes in and you know they're mostly going to be pass, I think you can set your defense up a little bit that way, in terms of your calls, and live with a few runs he may have. But if you have a guy like that, that could run it on any down, go out for a pass on any down, that makes your play calling a little bit harder."
CB Nevin Lawson on Minnesota's offense
"I think their o-line got a whole lot better. I know they want to run the ball, so they're running the ball a little bit better. And by them running the ball, they're able to do more play action and take shots down the field. I feel like last year they didn't really take shots like that down the field."
S Glover Quin on Vikings offensive weapons
"They've got play makers. They've got some players, and they complement each other well. Stefon Diggs is playing at a high level right now, making some big plays for them. Adam Thielen is making some big plays, as well. And then when you add Dalvin Cook in the backfield, he's making plays in the run game and the passing game, but he's also just putting more eyes on him in the backfield, which opens up more passes down the field.
"And you know, they're taking shots. Throwing the ball down the field and giving those guys opportunities to make plays. A lot of times in the past, they were a bunch of quick throws, short throws, but they're throwing the ball down the field, and those guys are making plays. So you've got to expect that to continue."
Quin on Cook
"He's a dynamic back. Just watching him, he runs hard, very explosive, fast, quick, strong, makes you miss. [He] catches the ball out of the backfield, he's really good in space. He changes the game for them. He's a big-time player. You have to tip your hat to him and the way he plays the game and what he's doing … We have to put bodies on him, we have to know where he's at and understand that he's probably going to make a couple plays. But as long as we keep the big plays off of us, we should be fine."