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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What are the key matchups to watch in Lions' first division game?

Every week during the regular season Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: It's been really impressive. It's a credit to the players in that room, but also to coach Hank Fraley. I can tell you this, those players in that room love him. When Dan Campbell was hired, Decker went to Campbell and asked that he interview Fraley, a holdover from Matt Patricia's staff.

Fraley played 11 years in the NFL, so he understands the game from both a player and coach perspective. Fraley wasn't the biggest, strongest or most athletic player, but he was technically sound and really savvy.

I think what's made him a great coach is that he's given all the guys in that room, especially some of the backups like Evan Brown and Dan Skipper, little tools of the trade that made him successful in this league for a long time without having some of the elite athletic abilities of others around him. He's a stickler on technique, which is so important at the position.

Fraley coaches every player in that room like they are a starter, and guys respect that. There are high expectations for every one of his players in that room.

"Having played the position, but also coached it, and he's got a real good feel of those guys, what they do well, how to develop the talent, and he just – he's got a real good feel of how to pull it out of them," head coach Dan Campbell said this week when I asked him about the job Fraley's done in the o-line room.

20man: Here are the five matchups I highlighted this week in my podcast.

  1. LT Taylor Decker vs. DE Danielle Hunter: Decker's allowed just two hurries and no sacks in two games. In 10 career games vs. Detroit, Hunter has 12.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a fumble returned for touchdown.
  2. CB Jeff Okudah vs. WR Justin Jefferson: Okudah's given up just 63 passing yards in his coverage with no touchdowns the first two weeks. Jefferson was held in check with 48 yards last week, but has 503 yards on 30 receptions in four career games vs. the Lions.
  3. RB D’Andre Swift vs. LB Eric Kendricks: The Lions have rushed for 191 and 181 yards, respectively, the last two weeks. Swift is averaging 10.0 yards per carry on the year. Kendricks is a leader on Minnesota's new-look 3-4 defense.
  4. DE Charles Harris vs. LT Christian Darrisaw: Harris had one of the biggest plays in the game last week with his strip-sack and safety in the first half. Darrisaw has allowed just one quarterback hit and no sacks in Minnesota's first two games.
  5. WR Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. NCB Chandon Sullivan: St. Brown is going for nine straight games with eight-plus receptions. Sullivan has allowed nine catches on 10 targets for 99 yards (no touchdowns) this season.

20man: Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn called this a measuring-stick game for the Lions when he spoke to the media on Thursday. The Vikings return home after a bad performance on the road in Philadelphia last week. There's going to be a sense of urgency with their team.

The Lions are heading on the road for the first time in one of the tougher places to play in the NFL against a good division opponent. How good will this offense operate in a hostile environment with their silent operations being tested?

Is this team ready to take the next step and compete in the NFC North? If so, winning some of these tough games on the road is a must. This game will tell me a lot about this team early in the year.

20man: Good question. I've been to every stadium in the league for an NFL game except for Kansas City and Las Vegas. Even though I haven't been there, most of the people I talk to around the league would list Kansas City as the toughest and loudest.

Here's my list based mostly on crowd noise and atmosphere (not including Ford Field):

  • 5 toughest: 1. Kansas City 2. Minnesota 3. Seattle 4. Green Bay 5. New Orleans
  • 5 easiest: 1. Los Angeles 2. Jacksonville 3. New York 4. Washington 5. Carolina

20man: Quarterback Jared Goff has really taken ownership of this offense, he's embraced the city of Detroit, and he has become a team leader. All the offensive guys I've talked to respect the heck out of the way he's handled himself all year dating back to inviting the receivers out to California to throw with him in the offseason.

Goff has played pretty well these first two weeks. The offense has scored the most points in the league and he's one of seven quarterbacks with a passer rating above 100.0 through the first two weeks. He's got six touchdowns and just one interception.

Like head coaches, quarterbacks in this league are ultimately evaluated on wins and losses. Just the way it is.

20man: If the Lions get to 2-1 with a good road win in a hostile environment, and they play well offensively, I would certainly expect that.

I think more important than any outside power rankings is how Lions fans would have to feel pretty good about where this thing is trending early in the season. They would be in first place in the NFC North heading back to Ford Field to take on Seattle.

20man: I thought Philly did a nice job of always knowing where Justin Jefferson was and having safety help over the top. It certainly didn't hurt that Eagles veteran cornerback Darius Slay is one of the best in the business.

Watching tape of the Vikings you'll notice they move Jefferson all around the field, even the slot, to try and find good matchups. I'd be a little surprised if the Lions travel Okudah or Amani Oruwariye with him. They've been playing both of those guys on sides the first two games.

Glenn made the comment this week the NFL is a matchup league and at some point players have to win their one-on-one matchups. That will be the case this week with Jefferson, but I'd certainly expect for the safeties to have an eye on those matchups and offer help over the top.

20man: They've been really good running the football, averaging 186 yards per game, which ranks third in the NFL. That's a tough pace to keep up, but if they can remain at the top of the league in rushing, they have a chance to be a Top 5 offense, for sure.

Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said this week the passing game has to catch up with the run game early on. Detroit's missed some opportunities for big plays in the passing game and they know it. That should be the really encouraging part for Lions fans when they look at this offense. They've scored the most offensive points in the league, and they don't even think they've played their best yet, particularly when they look at some of the missed opportunities in the passing game.

When it comes to Jameson Williams' return, I think the team is going to be patient and not rush it. He's a rookie who hasn't practiced in the NFL a day in his life. His 4.2 speed has a chance to make a difference, but he's going to need some time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NFL game, and to build some chemistry with Goff. I'm as excited as anyone to see how Johnson utilizes Williams' speed and how that opens things up even more for all the other skill-position weapons.

20man: We first have to make sure Aidan Hutchinson is playing Sunday. I expect him to, but he did miss practice Wednesday and Thursday with a thigh injury. We'll have to keep an eye on Friday's practice report and game designations.

The Vikings are much weaker along the interior of their offensive line than at tackle. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw has allowed four total pressures, one QB hit and no sacks through his first two games. Right tackle Brian O'Neill has also been pretty good. He allowed a sack last week vs. Philadelphia, but that's the only one of the year, with four total pressures, per Pro Football Focus statistics.

Hutchinson might actually have more opportunities to affect Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins when he shifts inside and rushes from the three-technique. Cousins is a pretty crafty veteran who doesn't hang on to the ball long. Either way, as long as the thigh doesn't significantly limit him, I'd expect Hutchinson to have an impact on the game in some form wherever he lines up.

20man: Yeah, this is one of those games that stung last year. Minnesota kicked a 54-yard field goal as time expired to win at home, 19-17, after Detroit had taken the lead with a D'Andre Swift touchdown with just 37 seconds remaining.

Detroit allowed Alexander Mattison to total 153 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in the contest. The Vikings will have their top back (Dalvin Cook) this time around. Job No. 1 has to be to contain him, much like Philadelphia did last week.

Linebacker Alex Anzalone played every defensive snap in that Vikings game last year and finished with just four tackles. He's played pretty well to start this season. He's a player, along with rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who has to have a big game for the Lions' defense to try to make Minnesota one-dimensional on offense.

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