The Detroit Lions are back on the road in Minnesota today trying to notch a crucial division win and get back to the .500 mark at the midway point of their season.
Here's a look at five things to watch in today's matchup:
Lions running back Adrian Peterson, defensive end Everson Griffen and safety Jayron Kearse head back to their old stomping grounds in Minnesota today. All three spent considerable time as Vikings, and get a chance today to try and help the Lions secure a win against their old team.
Both Peterson and Griffen said this week they were excited about the matchup and the chance to see some familiar faces in Minnesota.
Griffen was particularly looking forward to the matchup after he took issue with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer calling him a "good player" this week and not a great one. Griffen recorded at least eight sacks in six of his 10 seasons in Minnesota and was a four-time Pro Bowler.
"On Sunday I'm really looking forward to playing the Vikings and showing them that I am a great player," Griffen said this week.
The Lions get to face the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week today in Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.
Last week in Green Bay, Cook became the fifth player in the Super Bowl era with 200-plus scrimmage yards (226), at least three rushing touchdowns and a receiving score in a single game.
Cook accounted for 163 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. He also chipped in 65 receiving yards, including a 50-yard touchdown.
The Lions have been pretty good stopping the run the last three weeks since they tweaked some things on defense during their Week 5 bye, but today might be their toughest test yet against a player in Cook, who's playing some pretty good ball right now.
BETTER RUN RESULTS
The Lions are coming off their worst performance running the football last week in a loss to Indianapolis. Detroit rushed 13 times for 29 yards and a 2.2 average, but included in those totals were a 11-yard end around by Jamal Agnew and a 10-yard Stafford scramble. Running backs D'Andre Swift and Peterson had 11 carries for just eight yards on the ground last week.
The Vikings' defense ranks 19th in the NFL against the run, allowing 124.4 rushing yards per game on average. The Lions are a much more efficient offense when they're balanced and can run the football and use effective play action in the passing game off of it.
Running the ball with some consistency will also help to keep the aggressive Vikings defense a little bit more at bay if they have to worry about the run and can't just pin their ears back at a one-dimensional offense.
WHICH LIONS PASS CATCHER STEPS UP?
The Lions will be without Pro Bow wide receiver Kenny Golladay due to a hip injury he suffered last week. That's a big loss for Detroit's offense, and they'll need some other guys to step up.
Marvin Jones Jr. is a good candidate. Since joining Detroit in 2016, Jones has scored 15 receiving touchdowns in 22 games against division opponents, the second most receiving touchdowns a player has had against his own division in that span. Jones had two touchdown grabs last week after Golladay left the game.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson could be another name to watch. Hockenson has been targeted at least four times in every game this season, and leads the team with 29 receptions. He also has 321 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Hockenson ranks in the top 10 in the NFL among all pass catchers with an average separation from defenders of 3.7 yards, per NextGen statistics. Can he find some space to operate today? The Vikings have allowed a receiving touchdown to a tight end in two of their last three contests.
Veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford completed his five-day isolation period this week and was activated off the COVID-19 list Saturday.
It has certainly been an interesting week for Stafford and the Lions, having to prepare for a tough division opponent with their quarterback not available to practice while preparing virtually all week.
The good thing for the Lions is this is a familiar opponent in the Vikings, and Stafford is a 12-year vet with a terrific grasp of the offense. While not an ideal situation, it certainly would have been tougher if it were a first-year quarterback or younger signal caller with not as much experience.