ALLEN PARK – The Detroit Lions are back on the road, staying inside NFC North for their Week 5 game with the Minnesota Vikings. Detroit (0-4) and Minnesota (1-3) are looking to catch second-placed Chicago Bears and keep pace with Green Bay Packers.
The Lions were decimated by injuries in the first four weeks, with Romeo Okwara (Achilles) and Frank Ragnow (toe) the last to head to the injured reserve. Dan Campbell also said he didn’t expect Taylor Decker to return by Sunday’s game against the Vikings, while casting doubt on the status of sought-after rookie Penei Sewell. Evan Brown is expected to fill the role of Ragnow, while the Lions take the week to monitor Sewell’s status.
“We’re going to be smart with what we’re doing in terms of the game plan to try to help our guys and not just them but everyone, we’ve come back and tried to really look at what we think we’re doing right,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We are four weeks away now. What are our guys doing right? Knowing what we have ahead of time and what they (the Vikings) have, how can we help them? The plan is taken care of that way a bit. And again, we were able to play complementary football. We can’t get into one of them like we have been, we can’t have one where we’re at the bottom and we’re in two minute mode and have to run it every play and they know it , we know that and it doesn’t serve us well all the time.
This article will go over the squad stats, taking a look at the history of the series, betting lines and shining a light on the Vikings players:
Team statistics 2021:
DVOA offensive classification: 21st Lions | Vikings 14th
DVOA defensive ranking: 31st Lions | Vikings 14th
Net Yards Gained Per Pass Attempt: Lions 5.8 (23rd) | Vikings 6.6 (17th)
Ground yards per attempt: Lions 4.3 (13th) | Vikings 4.2 (15th)
Points per game: Lions 20.3 (24th) | Vikings 23.5 (17th)
Points allowed per match: Lions 29.8 (29th) | Vikings 23.0 (11th)
Net yards allowed per overtaking attempt: Lions 9.0 (31st) | Vikings 7.2 (25th)
Precipitation courses authorized per attempt: Lions 4.4 (19th) | Vikings 4.8 (28th)
Take away food : Lion 4 | Vikings 2
Spotlight on Minnesota players: Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson have already totaled 50 catches, 565 yards and seven touchdowns in four games, each with a decent portion of those numbers. Thielen is still good at what he does, a little bit of everything while providing clean roads and safe hands.
The duo helped Kirk Cousins deliver impressive numbers despite the team leaving the 1-3. Cousins protected the ball, completing 108 of 157 passes for 1,121 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. He hasn’t lost a single fumble despite seven sacks in four games. It is a step in the right direction for this offense. NFL Next Gen Stats has Cousins averaging the third lowest planned overhead yards, so while the passing game is brewing in some spots, it’s not forcing it down. Thielen’s numbers capture that best, with the double Pro Bowler averaging 6.7 yards per target, a career low. Jefferson’s numbers in that department are down more than two full yards from his impressive rookie season at 9.1 yards per target this year.
The rushed attack was inconsistent with Dalvin Cook suffering from an ankle injury. Cook missed the team’s match of Week 3, then returned to run up against the impressive wall of Cleveland defensemen last week. Cook ran nine times for 34 yards while substitute Alexander Mattison added 20 yards on 10 attempts. Both fullbacks have shown an ability to do so, with Cook running 51 times for 226 yards and a touchdown with Mattison adding 145 yards on 40 attempts.
Detroit’s defense limped in this game, losing Romeo Okwara for the season to an Achilles tendon injury. The Lions are already without Jeff Okudah and Ifetu Melifonwu, with Trey Flowers missing the previous two games. They’ve been playing with security rotations in recent weeks, filling the role of Jamie Collins with a combination of rookie Derrick Barnes and Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
Bobby Price, a recently converted defenseman, started the previous two games as a cornerback with Okudah and Melifonwu out. He fought mightily in Chicago last week, ultimately losing snaps to Jerry Jacobs in the second half. Daryl Worley saw work safe, pushing Will Harris off the bench while playing next to Tracy Walker. Dean Marlowe has also maintained a role for the previous two weeks, doing most of his work in the box. That said, it’s a brutal clash to attract the Minnesota pass attack highlighted by two very good wide receivers Cousins isn’t afraid to feed.
“I think he did a good job,” Campbell said of Jacobs. “I thought he stepped in and done his job, played hard, and so I think he deserves a chance, but I also think Bobby still has his chance to help us as that team. But yeah, I thought Jerry had stepped in and done some good things.
Star Vikings passing carrier Danielle Hunter picked up where he left off, scoring five sacks in the first four games after missing all of 2020. He’s back to share the pitch with old friend Everson Griffen , who added two sacks and four quarterback hits in three games. DJ Wonnum started out on the other side of Hunter, with Griffen playing a rotating role. Despite the pressure, the Vikings struggled to systematically stop the race or keep business in front of them in the air.
Anthony Barr is expected to make his return this week through coach Mike Zimmer, which could give this squad a boost. Barr missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, then suffered a knee injury at this point. Eric Kendricks already has 47 tackles and a sack in four games, so he has maintained the linebacker room and more. Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods kept him at security points, this reshaped defense starting to come together.
Cleveland’s Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt’s brace gave games to Minnesota last week, combining 169 yards and one touchdown on 35 attempts. The week before? The Vikings went to Seattle and beat the Seahawks 30-17, the defense keeping the Seahawks off the field, locking them in on the third down. Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow ripped high school in the first two weeks, highlighting Minnesota’s main defense problem.
It’s another interesting clash between Detroit’s floundering pass attack and Minnesota’s struggling high school. Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander and Bashaud Breeland saw the most work in the cornerback room, with second-year cornerback Cameron Dantzler making his way into the rotation. It was tough for the top three in this room, allowing a total of 42 receptions on 56 targets for 621 yards and six touchdowns in four games.
“He’s got (Zimmer) his stuff that he’s loved to do for a long time, of course,” Lions quarterback Jared Goff said. “But at the same time, it’s a defense that evolves every year and it’s still early this season, so they are still evolving. I’m sure being a division opponent they will have something for us and we’ll see what it is. You know with him it’s an aggressive defensive style and they want to be like that.
Line of bet: The bettors have the Vikings favored by 8.5 and nine points in the middle of the week. The over / under total is 49.5 points.
Series history: The Vikings lead the all-time streak 78-39-2, on a seven-game winning streak in this weekend’s game. See below for the five most recent meetings:
2021 – Vikings 37, Lions 35
2020 – Vikings 34, Lions 20
2019 – Vikings 20, Lions 7
2019 – Vikings 42, Lions 30
2018 – Vikings 27, Lions 9