This NFC North rivalry dates back to 1961 when Minnesota defeated the Lions 37-10. The Vikings hold a commanding 66-33-2 advantage in the series, however, the Lions have one the last three games in the series, including a 34-28 victory late last year.
2012 REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS (RANK)
|Points per game||29.0 (7)||23.3 (16)|
|Total yards per game||436.0 (2)||353.3 (15)|
|Rushing yards||102.0 (14)||121.3 (9)|
|Passing yards||334.0 (1)||232.0 (19)|
|Points allowed||31.3 (27)||19.7 (9)|
|Total yards allowed||345.3 (15)||304.3 (8)|
|Rushing yards allowed||94.7 (12)||95.3 (13)|
|Passing yards allowed||250.7 (20)||209.0 (8)|
|Turnover ratio||-2 (23)||0 (18)|
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Stafford was a full participant in practice Friday and showed no ill effects of a hip injury that prevented him from finishing Sunday’s game in Tennessee, or practicing on Wednesday.
The Lions lead the league in passing and it goes without saying that they are much more explosive in the pass game with Stafford under center. He’s completing 68.9 percent of his passes on the season for 863 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
We still haven’t seen the big game from Stafford yet this season, could it come Sunday?
Fairley has two tackles and a sack over the first three games of the season, but Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said Friday he’s wanting to see more from his second-year defensive tackle.
“Nick (Fairley) has to get on track,” he said. “He’s made some plays but I think they’re inconsistent."
He’s listed as questionable for Sunday, but if I were to venture a guess, I’d say he plays.
The Lions could certainly use him, too. He was targeted 11 times in the first two games and is a big matchup weapon down the middle of the field for the Lions.
Adrian Peterson, RB:
In nine career meetings against the Lions, Peterson has rushed for 892 yards (99.1 per game) and eight touchdowns. He also has five 100-yard performances in those contests.
Peterson estimates that he’s about 95-percent healthy just eight months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. The Lions will find out Sunday how good a 95-percent Peterson is.
Kyle Rudolph, TE:
The Lions have given up three touchdowns to opposing tight ends over the last two weeks.
Rudolph has been one of the favorite targets of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder this season and has three touchdowns himself over the Vikings last two games.
Jared Allen, DE:
Allen had three sacks in each of the Vikings two games against the Lions last year, bringing his career total against the Lions up to 12.5.
The Lions have done a pretty good job keeping Matthew Stafford upright this season, but Allen has had his way with Lions blockers of late. He’s a smart football player and knows Lions left tackle
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Encore performance for Leshoure?
Let’s hope so. Leshoure has been dealing with a groin injury all week and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Leshoure rushed 26 times last week in his NFL debut for 100 yards and a touchdown. He proved he could carry the load and be productive.
The Vikings have done a good job containing the run this season, allowing an average of less than 100 yards per game. They’ve been successful over the first few weeks moving a safety in the box to help with the run. They might not be able to do that against the Lions and receiver
The Lions were one of the best teams in the NFL last season at forcing turnovers. Their +11 turnover ratio ranked fourth in the league.
So far this season, the Lions are -2 and rank No. 23. It’s probably little coincidence they are 1-2 on the season.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz warned against trying too hard to force turnovers, though.
“I think that we need to take the approach of everybody doing their job and the plays will come to us rather than pressing,” he said.
“You start swinging at bad pitches, you start striking out more if you’re pressing and that’s what on defense we need to (remember). Physical play will create turnovers. Guys doing their job, being in the right spot will create turnovers. But if you’re trying to create them, you’re trying for the wrong thing.”
The Lions have yet to record an interception through their first three games.
Can Lions make Ponder try and beat them?
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is building a successful formula in Minnesota by playing good defense, running the football and having a quarterback that doesn’t make mistakes. It’s the same formula that’s been successful in San Francisco with 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, and Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has taken notice.
“I liken him to Alex Smith,” Cunningham said. “He manages things and he doesn’t make errors right now. He doesn’t have any interceptions and his quarterback rating is like 111 (104.9), I think.
“He’s really playing smart football and he’s got a great back behind him. They’re really doing a good job.”
Ponder’s longest completion on the season is just 29 yards, so if the Lions can stop Adrian Peterson and the Vikings run game and make Ponder have to make plays down the field, the Vikings are out of their comfort level on offense.
Where’s the rush?
Teams are countering the Lions’ stout defensive line by having their quarterbacks get rid of the football quickly. The Lions had no sacks and just one quarterback pressure last week against the Titans. Cunningham said Friday that Titans quarterback Jake Locker got rid of the football in an average time of 1.9 seconds.
“I said a little bit before about how our pass rush was not what it can be and not what it should be last week,” Schwartz said.
Special teams bounce back?
The Lions’ special teams gave up a touchdown on both a punt and a kickoff return last week in the loss to the Titans.
The special teams forced a fumble against the 49ers, that the offense turned into three points, but those momentum shifting plays have been too absent for the Lions.
The Lions need to contain a very dangerous Vikings returner in Percy Harvin on Sunday, and also need to get Logan going a little bit and get a big momentum shifting play from their special teams.