The Detroit Lions are getting set to tangle with the Minnesota Vikings for the first time this season, and the good news is the team they will play is nowhere close to the team everyone expected to start the season.
Minnesota, at times, has looked much worse than the Lions and far more inconsistent on the field. That’s led to their tough 2-5 record and being in the basement of the NFC North for most of the year. This week, though, they could finally catch the Lions and begin to climb above them in the standings. There’s enough injury trouble on the Detroit side that this could be reality.
What matchups will determine if the Lions can keep their playoff dreams afloat or if they will once again be pushed backward in the NFC North? Here’s a look at the key matchups that figure to decide the game.
Lions Cornerbacks vs. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen
Rumors suggested that Thielen could be moved by the deadline, but that never materialized, much to the frustration of Lions fans. Thielen has torched Detroit through the years and has 7 touchdowns to his credit this season. Now, he’s got a legit running mate in Jefferson to count on that can turn in the yards. This duo is going to put guys like Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah to the test. Whether or not that group can stand up to it is anyone’s guess, and the Lions have to get better play out of Justin Coleman. Desmond Trufant may or may not be ready, but regardless of who is, the team will have to have their backfield playing a huge game to have a chance at a win against a pretty good group.
Eric Wilson vs. Lions Offensive Front
It’s not a stretch to say Wilson has been the most productive player on the Vikings this entire season. He’s got 2 interceptions, 2 sacks and 41 tackles. Those numbers paint the picture of a guy who can go sideline to sideline and make a ton of plays on the field up front and over the middle. Detroit’s offensive line is going to have to be up to the task and not let Wilson roam around and cause havoc. Detroit’s line has been better this year, but they can still get beaten by a talented player.
Vikings Defensive Backs vs. Lions Wideouts
This is going to be a strange week for Detroit given they are likely to be without Kenny Golladay thanks to a hip injury. Without Golladay, everyone knows the Lions are a different offensive team and could be a bit easier to slow down. Minnesota’s backfield has struggled at times this year so it will be up to them to find a way to contain the likes of Marvin Jones and Marvin Hall, a pair of players that cooked them in a game last season. If the Lions don’t have Matthew Stafford, that puts even more pressure on Chase Daniel to distribute the ball to a group that will be lacking its best player.
Everson Griffen vs. Vikings Offensive Front
The Lions placed Trey Flowers on the IR with injury this week, meaning the team will be down one of its best pass rushers. Having Griffen be able to come into the mix to offer a helping hand up front for the team is huge in this scenario, and could be just the reason the Lions made the trade after all. He can play inside and outside so the Lions plans for him will be interesting, and could determine the amount of damage that he does. Detroit has to love the fact that Griffen looks ready to inflict some pain on the Vikings this weekend in his first matchup with the team. It will be fun to see what he has in store, and it could be a matchup that dooms the Vikings in the end should they not be able to contain their former teammate.