The Minnesota Vikings aren’t currently in the driver’s seat of the division, but that might only be temporary with the way they are heating up.
Dalvin Cook was forced to do much of the leg work — no pun intended — through the first four weeks of the 2019 season as the Vikings sustained road losses in Green Bay and Chicago, but things have begun to take hold offensively in the past two weeks. Kirk Cousins tossed for more than 300 yards in wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants with six touchdowns to just one interception in that span.
Now, the Vikings (4-2) offense is a well-oiled machine with a defense that has only twice this year allowed more than 14 points, staring down their final NFC North trip away from U.S. Bank Stadium this season with Sunday’s noon CT kickoff at the Detroit Lions (2-2-1).
And yet, the Lions put on a good show before controversy punctuated their Monday night with a 23-22 loss to the Packers. Good enough for them to open as one-point favorites at Ford Field, but they have dropped to two-point underdogs, according to Odds Shark. Meanwhile, the over/under sits at 43.5 but has peaked as high as 45.5 this week.
Here’s some more background on the teams along with some stats and advice on which of the NFC North rivals will emerge victorious.
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Vikings vs. Lions: Will Dalvin Cook Be an X-Factor Yet Again?
No disrespect to Cousins, who has learned to make full use of one of the best receiver duos — Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen — in the NFL and is starting to hit his stride, but Cook will be the most dynamic player on the field Sunday without question. He has the fourth-most rushing yards (583) among running backs and has run for at least 100 yards in four of six games this season. The only two opponents to shut him out rank among the top five run defenses, as he got fewer than 50 against the Bears (fifth) and Eagles (second).
Part of the reason behind Cook’s dominance has been the need for him to be great with Cousins taking some time to establish the passing game. But there’s also just the fact that, well, Cook is great. Add in that he also has 23 catches for 213 yards, and the Lions have could have their hands full when Sunday rolls around.
Matthew Stafford has been capable of matching whatever opposing offenses have thrown at him through the Lions’ first five games, placing the burden on a struggling defense to bounce back from last week’s loss. Detroit allowed Jamaal Williams to run loose for 104 yards in Week 6 while also being active in the passing game. It pushed their season average to 133.8 rushing yards allowed per contest, while the Lions also surrender the fourth-most total yards per game in the NFL — a hair-pulling 413.8 yards — ahead of just the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins.
Vikings vs. Lions: Pick & Prediction
The Lions defense could surprise with a shutout afternoon against the high-powered Vikings offense, but it is more likely that things become a shootout before halftime than anything else. Expect Minnesota to finally come away with a division win after losses to the Bears and Packers — and look for the Lions to continue to stumble until they can hold a little firmer on the defensive side of the ball.
Pick: Vikings -2
Over-under: Over 43.5
Prediction: Vikings 31, Lions 21