An In-Depth Preview Of The Lions’ Thanksgiving Matchup Against The Minnesota Vikings.
How Have The Vikings Looked Since Week Four?
The short answer is really good. They have not lost a single game since their 14-7 loss to the Lions in Minnesota. The Viking defense has been on fire through this stretch, allowing 17 points or less in five of their last six games. Their elite play was capitalized last week against the NFL’s top scoring offense in the Las Angeles Rams. They held the team to a season-low seven points, capitalizing on their forced fumbles limiting talented running back Todd Gurley to merely 37 yards rushing.
The Viking offense has not been a slouch throughout this stretch either. This has been largely due to quarterback Case Keenum’s efficiency with the ball and the emergence of receiver Adam Thielen both igniting the passing game. Keenum has hit over 70% completion in three of these games. Has a total of 12 touchdowns and taken care of the ball decently well with five interceptions. Adam Thielen however, has been playing surprisingly well the past few weeks and could be a factor in the Vikings Thanksgiving game in Detroit.
Key Matchups To Watch On Thanksgiving
Darius Slay vs Adam Thielen
Last years game on Thanksgiving, this matchup was one of the deciding factors in the game. Darius Slay’s game clinching interception came in coverage against Adam Thielen. The Vikings wide receiver has put up some nice receiving totals the past two of weeks, putting up 289 yards and two touchdowns in total. His route running has been quite clean and does a good job catching the ball in traffic. But Thielen has not done this well against a cornerback like Darius Slay yet this season.
Slay is not only playing at a high level right now, but he is also one of most athletic at his position. He has always had great speed and showed really quick hips early in his career. But now that he has put the technical skill with it, he has become a game changer on the defense. Thielen has had success against good cornerbacks, but none with the athletic traits Darius has. Lacking that same athleticism could tilt this matchup in Slay’s favor for the second straight year.
A’Shawn Robinson vs Pat Elflein
The Lions have really began to miss the strength that defensive tackle Haloti Ngata brought to the interior defensive line. Since his injury, the run defense has begun to slide downhill and had arguably their worst game as a unit against Jordan Howard last week. A’Shawn Robinson has been a force on the inside in his second year, but rookie center Pat Elflein will make that no easy task.
Elflein has been playing very well for a rookie center for Minnesota. He has been strong at the point of attack, especially in the running game. He has done very well moving in space and has put defenders into the ground this season for being out of place or playing off balance. A’Shawn will need one of his better performances on Thanksgiving to prevent the running game from taking over this Lions defense for the second week in a row. If he is able to succeed, the Lions chances to win for the fourth straight Thanksgivings under Jim Caldwell looks quite probable.
Taylor Decker vs Everson Griffen
Lions missed Taylor Decker in their first matchup against the Minnesota Vikings this season. His return has been key and is facing a guy who has looked like an elite defender again this season. Griffen showed it lining up against former Lion Greg Robinson in the week four game. He was consistently in Stafford’s face and was disruptive in the ground game as well.
Decker has stepped in and has looked quite good in his two games since being back. Decker played the Vikings defensive end well last season, allowing only one sack in the two matchups and blocked well on the ground in both games. If Decker can improve upon Robinson’s performance from week four, and it is extremely like he does, the Lions offense will be set up much better to score this matchup.