The Lions hit the road for a second consecutive week as they travel to Minnesota looking for their first win of the season. The Vikings are coming off a 14-7 loss to Cleveland last week that dropped their record to 1-3 to begin the year.
Here are five things to watch out for in today's contest:
1. SEWELL & HOCKENSON HEALTH
Both rookie tackle Penei Sewell and Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson have a chance to play today. Sewell's been battling an ankle injury all week and Hockenson's been dealing with a knee injury. Both players are listed as questionable, but Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday they got better as the week progressed and have a chance to play today. We'll know for sure 90 minutes before kickoff when inactives are released on detroitlions.com.
Minnesota's 13 sacks on defense are tied for the fourth most in the league, and Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter is second in the NFL with 5.0 sacks. Already down 40 percent of their starting offensive line with Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow out, having Sewell healthy enough to play would be important upfront for Detroit's offense.
Hockenson is arguably Detroit's top offensive weapon with 22 catches and two touchdowns on the year. The Vikings haven't allowed a touchdown by a tight end this season or a 100-yard receiving performance from the position.
2. THIRD & FOURTH DOWNS
The Lions are just 15-of-45 converting third downs on the season. They are 3-of-10 on 4th down. Within those numbers, Detroit's really struggled to convert the short situations (less than four yards). Penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities have led to a number of those failed attempts.
Campbell made a concerted effort this week to try and improve some of the issues they've had in those third and fourth-down situations. He changed up practice this week to incorporate first-team offense vs. first-team defense competitive periods to work on it. Detroit's defense ranks second in the NFL on third down, so the hope is the offense got some good work this week.
Campbell wants to be aggressive in those situations, especially on fourth down, but they have to start converting on more of them. It will be interesting to see how the Lions handle some of those early third-down situations to see if they can stay on the field.
3. SECONDARY ADJUSTMENTS
The Lions have given up 23 plays of 20-plus yards on the season and 19 of those have been via the pass. That doesn't bode well heading into today's matchup against a Vikings' offense that can push the ball down the field with the best of them, thanks to one of the best receiver tandems in the league in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Third-year veteran Amani Oruwariye has been pretty solid at one of the cornerback spots. Opposing passers have a 79.9 passer rating throwing his way in four contests, and he's recorded two interceptions and just one touchdown against.
It's been a different story on the other side. Jeff Okudah was injured Week 1 and is done for the year. Rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu was the next man up until he also suffered an injury. Converted safety Bobby Price took over for him with mixed results. The Lions still plan to play Price today, but undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs is expected to see an increased role in that spot opposite Oruwariye.
Limiting the big play has been a big emphasis this week for defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.
4. COMPLETE GAME
We have yet to see the Lions play consistent football for a 60-minute stretch this year.
This team just hasn't been able to build any momentum between their three units. Either the offense has been hot and the defense cold or vice versa, and as a result, Detroit's trailed by double digits in the second half in every contest this year.
The Lions have gotten off to slow starts in three of their four games. Detroit needs to find a way to start faster. Minnesota can get after the quarterback (13 sacks) and they can run the football. They are built to play with the lead. If the Lions fall behind early, they will make things extra tough on themselves this afternoon.
5. FIRST CAREER START
The Lions have lost Ragnow for at least the next three games and potentially longer, as he is dealing with a toe injury. In steps journeyman Evan Brown, who played pretty well after Ragnow left the Bears game in the first half last week. Brown is expected to make his first career start today.
There's no replacing Ragnow, but Brown's been in Detroit since late last year, and both he and the coaches feel confident he can step in and keep the offense on track.
"I thought Evan did a good job last week of stepping in there," Lynn said. "That's what the backups are supposed to do when the number one goes down, next man up and it's not a problem. I didn't think it was a problem when Evan stepped in. Now, Frank's the starter for a reason, but I think Evan's a solid center."
The Vikings could be without talented interior defender Michael Pierce (elbow), who hasn't practice all week and is listed as questionable.