Lions-Vikings Key Matchups: Kirk Cousins Could Decide Outcome

Kirk Cousins

Getty Kirk Cousins unloads a pass in Detroit in 2018.

The Detroit Lions are getting set to continue their early season tour of the NFC North with a visit from the Minnesota Vikings, and though the teams always know each other well, there’s still plenty that can and does happen every year in the contest.

Detroit and Minnesota have had some hard battles the last few seasons, and the Vikings are riding a current three game winning streak head to head. So the Lions must respond in 2019, and must find a way to grit through and beat a sound team on both sides of the football.

How do they get that done? Here’s a look at some of the biggest matchups that figure to determine the outcome of the game.

Kirk Cousins vs. Detroit Secondary

The Lions have been as good as it gets this season in ripping the ball away and forcing mistakes by opposing quarterbacks. They are finally starting to embrace the sudden change notion and are generating some major plays on the field in terms of frustrating the opposition. This week, the Lions face Cousins, a quarterback who is a fascinating case given his boom or bust potential week to week. If Cousins is on and has a good game, the Vikings can beat anyone. He’s also been a mistake and turnover machine in the past, so that puts pressure on this Lions group to make some big plays to stymie him. Safe to say how Cousins handles the road environment in Detroit as well as a hungry group of ballhawks in the secondary could determine the outcome.

Detroit’s Offensive Front vs. Minnesota’s Defensive Front

The Lions haven’t managed to stop the Minnesota defensive line the last two seasons. They surrendered 11.5 sacks in two games last season, and that’s not good enough in order to get wins much less generate points. Detroit’s line struggled in Green Bay and seeing if they can hold up in a big way against a good front will be a big story to watch in this game. If Detroit can’t pass protect on offense or get a ground game going, it’s going to be a very long day just like it was in 2018. Tougher efforts will be needed.

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Darius Slay vs. Stefon Diggs

Diggs had a major week scoring three touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles, which re-established him as a truly dominating force. Slay came back off his hamstring injury and did a decent job against the Packers, slowing down their top wideouts. He appeared on the injury report again this week, which is bad news considering the matchup he figures to have against Diggs. Slay loves the challenge of locking down the other team’s best and brightest at wideout, so he will be asked to do that again. If Diggs gets going that’s bad news for the Lions defense, as they have not exactly had to face a ton of top wideouts yet this year.

Dalvin Cook vs. Detroit Rush Defense

The Lions came into the 2019 season with plenty of defensive hope in terms of stopping the run. Thus far, they haven’t lived up to the hype at all up front. Cook is a solid running back who can charge through the line and rack up the yardage. The Lions need to slow him down in order to have a chance at victory. They knocked Cook out of the game his rookie year, but they must prevent him from getting going this time around. With a healthy rushing attack, life becomes much easier for Cousins. The Lions have to work to take that away.

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