Detroit Walks Into Thanksgiving With Their Biggest Game Ahead Of Them Against Minnesota.
One of the main ways that the Lions can get into the playoffs is by winning the division. If they want to win the division, they have to get through the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings lead the NFC North with an 8-2 record, while the Detroit Lions are 6-4, but have already beaten Minnesota once this season in Minnesota. Now they could cut the lead to just one game and have a tiebreaker over the Vikings.
This won’t be a blowout like 2015 was against the Eagles, expect this game to go down to the wire like last season. Both teams are trending upwards, and with Minnesota having a tougher schedule than Detroit after week 12, Detroit needs them to slip, and they can start slipping in Detroit.
Same Opponent, Different Looks
Week four was a long time ago, which was when these two teams last met. The Vikings lost their rookie sensation at running back, Dalvin Cook, that game, but the running game still seems to exist with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. The offensive line for both teams was banged up last time, now they are both stronger and get better players back.
Matt Stafford was hobbling around Minnesota last time, and while he showed some pain in Chicago, he won’t be near as banged up as he was back then. Case Keenum has been stepping up his play lately and keeping the starting quarterback job to himself against Teddy Bridgewater.
Jarrad Davis will play this week, as he missed the previous meeting between the two teams. Ziggy Ansah will return after missing the last two games, and the biggest change for them is the addition in defensive end Dwight Freeney, who Detroit signed on Wednesday. Overall, this matchup will be different from the one in week four. While it will still be a close game, both teams have changed in their own ways in eight weeks.
Darius Slay Must Make Big Plays
Cornerback Darius Slay had some trouble against the dual-headed monster in the Minnesota wide receivers, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. They combined for 10 catches for 157 yards as Slay switched between the two receivers. Slay will have to make some big plays if he is going to stop this offense.
Slay and A.J. Bouye are tied for first out of cornerbacks with four interceptions. Detroit will need turnovers in order to win this game. The defense has struggled in back to back weeks by allowing over 200 rushing yards, but they forced an interception or recovered a fumble in those games.
Slay came up clutch last season by reading Sam Bradford’s eyes, leaving his man, jumping in front of another wide receiver and getting the interception that led to the game-winning field goal.
Losing Isn’t The End
While losing this game would put a big dent in the Lions goal of winning the NFC North, putting them three games back, they could still win the division without winning on Thanksgiving. The Vikings remaining opponents have a combined record of 25-25, while the Lions opponents combine for a 21-29 record.
Now having the Vikings lose four of their last five is asking for a lot, but stranger things have happened in the NFL. Detroit shouldn’t bank on that happening though because odds are the Vikings won’t drop four out of the final five games, Detroit winning would close the gap to one game, and having the Vikings just drop one or even two more games this season is possible.
Detroit is currently at the seventh spot in the NFC standings, making themselves one spot outside of the playoffs. It is a little too early to start looking into what has to happen, but Detroit could get a wildcard spot if they can’t win the division.
It is going to be a slugfest between these two teams. The last game resulted in a 14-7 score, this time expect an increase, but not much more. Detroit will be without star return man Jamal Agnew, but besides him and Dwayne Washington, the team is healthy, unlike the last battle.
Ford Field will be loud and rocking on Thanksgiving and that home field advantage will be the deciding factor as the fans will be able to get the Vikings offensive line to jump offsides. Detroit will get it done in a big win for the city and the team.
Detroit wins 24-17.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth preview, check out Zac’s article here.