The NFC North race is starting to shape up, and these two teams are in danger of being left behind. Neither the Minnesota Vikings nor the Detroit Lions can allow a divisional game to slip away.
The Vikings are currently in a different place than the Lions despite their identical four-loss mark. Minnesota stormed out of the gate with four wins in their first five games. However, the Vikes have followed up that start with three losses in their last four contests.
Conversely, Detroit has been coming on lately. After struggling to manufacture points, the Lions have scored 25 or more points in three of their last four outings. Coincidentally, all of those games ended in wins.
What does the above means for this Sunday's match up? Let's find out.
Where: The Hubert H. Mumphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN
When: Sunday, November 11th at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Live Stream: FOX Live Stream
Pick Against the Spread: Lions -2 (according to espn.go.com)
Percy Harvin is struggling with an ankle injury and is officially listed as questionable. That leaves Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph to drive the entire offense. That doesn't seem reasonable.
Meanwhile, the Lions are gaining confidence on offense after Mikel Leshoure busted out with three touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ryan Broyles has started to earn his second-round choice and Matthew Stafford looks on point.
This one could get ugly.
Over/Under: Under 46.5 points (according to FootballLocks.com)
It seems entirely possible that Detroit could put up somewhere around 31 points. So long as Jared Allen is accounted for and someone keeps Brian Robison from blocking passes at the line of scrimmage (six passes defensed), the offense will roll. However, the Vikings only scored six points offensively last time these two met. Take the under.
Key Injuries (according to CBSSports.com)
Lions: DE Cliff Avril (back, questionable); S Louis Delmas (knee, questionable); CB Chris Houston (illness, questionable); WR Calvin Johnson (knee, questionable); RB Mikel Leshoure (ankle, probable); LB DeAndre Levy (hamstring, probable); LB Stephen Tulloch (knee, probable); DT Corey Williams (knee, questionable); and WR Titus Young (knee, probable).
Vikings: TE John Carlson (concussion, probable); WR Percy Harvin (ankle, questionable); RB Adrian Peterson (ankle/illness, probable); S Mistral Raymond (ankle, probable); WR Jerome Simpson (calf, probable); and CB Antoine Winfield (knee, questionable).
Fantasy Big Plays
Mikel Leshoure: Detroit has finally found its banger to handle those runs between the tackles. Leshoure has been a beast when fed the ball and he'll continue to get chances inside the red zone. He is most definitely a must-start this week.
Ryan Broyles: Obviously, this pick is much more of a stretch than others. However, he has some value. Broyles is building chemistry with Matthew Stafford and will benefit from the focus on Johnson and Young. He would be a solid third wide receiver or flex play.
Keys to a Lions Win
Continue to play the type of defense that Detroit has all season. The Lions have quietly been very good on defense all season. They did give up just under five yards per carry to Adrian Peterson, but those yards were earned the hard way. The defense must keep Peterson in front of them and put the game in Christian Ponder's hands.
On offense, the run is nice, but the Lions must remember who they are: An explosive team that loves to pass. Stafford can't be afraid to force a ball to Johnson every now and then, instead of always settling for a dump-off. He should also continue to feed Young and Broyles.
Keys to Vikings Win
The Vikings must get after the quarterback. No ifs, ands or buts. Jared Allen and Brian Robison need to menace Stafford into a bad game, which is not unprecedented.
As for the offense, having a healthy Harvin would help immensely, but that doesn't seem possible. So a steady dose of Peterson will be necessary to keep the Lions' defensive line from dictating Ponder's throws. If Ponder gets a chance to set his feet every now and again, this will be a ball game.
Lions 27, Vikings 10.