Detroit is trying to play the role of spoiler today with their playoff hopes dashed last week in Buffalo. Minnesota is clinging to the final wild card spot, and can control their own playoff destiny by winning their last two games vs. Detroit today and Chicago next week.
Here are five things to look out for today in Detroit's home finale at Ford Field.
The last time Detroit played Minnesota, the Vikings set a franchise record with 10 sacks. They hit quarterback Matthew Stafford a total of 17 times. The Vikings currently lead the NFL with 47 sacks and are coming off a performance in Miami where they sacked Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill nine times.
The Lions have changed up some of their protections since that first meeting, and have done a pretty good job of protecting Stafford of late, but that will be truly tested later today.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wants to see balance from his offense. He made that clear when he fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo when they were throwing the ball 66 percent of the time. New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski got the message. Minnesota ran the ball 40 times last week vs. Miami for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
The Lions have been pretty good against the run the last two months, coinciding with their trade for defensive tackle Damon Harrison. Minnesota wants to run it, and the Lions have been good stopping it, so it should be an interesting matchup in this one.
Lions second-year wide receiver Kenny Golladay is coming off a career-high 146-yard performance last week in Buffalo, which also propelled him over 1,000 yards (1,005) for the season. Golladay was a big-play threat last week, and the Lions will need more of that if they're going to score enough to stick with Minnesota.
Minnesota is second in the NFL behind Chicago allowing opposing quarterbacks only a 85.2 passer rating this season. They're also No. 1 on third down (28.6 percent) and have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL (15). Golladay will have his work cut out for him today. He had three catches for 46 yards in the first matchup between these two teams.
REVENGE OF THIELEN?
Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen started the year off by recording at least 100 receiving yards in each of his first eight games. That streak was ended by Detroit Week 9 when the Lions held him to 22 receiving yards. He did have a short touchdown catch, however.
Since playing Detroit, Thielen's only had one 100-yard performance over the last six weeks.
He still has 105 receptions for 1,255 yards and nine touchdowns on the year, while punching his ticket to the Pro Bowl, but he'll be looking for a better showing against Detroit this time around.
.500 AT HOME
One of the reasons Detroit is sitting at five wins and not in the playoff hunt is because they haven't done a good enough job defending Ford Field. The Lions are currently 3-4 at home on the year with wins over New England, Green Bay and Carolina and losses to the New York Jets, Seattle, Chicago and the Los Angeles Rams.
Detroit will try to end the home slate of their schedule on a positive note and get to the .500 mark at home on the year, knowing they'll have to be better at Ford Field next season to get to where they want to go.