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5 things to watch

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5 things to watch: Lions vs. Vikings

The Detroit Lions wrap up the regular season this afternoon at Ford Field against the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions have already clinched the NFC North title and can't be any worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs, but a win vs. the Vikings today, coupled with losses by Philadelphia (at New York Giants) and Dallas (at Washington) would give Detroit the No. 2 seed.

Detroit can expect to get Minnesota's best effort as they are still alive for a playoff berth. The Vikings need to defeat the Lions, and then have the Bears defeat the Packers and the Cardinals beat the Seahawks. Additionally, either the Falcons must defeat the Saints or the Panthers must upset the Buccaneers.

Here are five things to watch out for against the Vikings today:


Lions head coach Dan Campbell has said all week the plan is to play the starters.

"To me, this is about winning this game ... we're going to use our full arsenal here and go win this game," Campbell said. "That's the objective here."

It's kind of how Detroit has to play it, right? They can't sit players and lose and then watch Philadelphia and Dallas lose, however slim those odds might be, and lose out on the No. 2 seed.

But Campbell also said there could be some exceptions for players dealing with injury. It will be interesting to see if the plan changes at all throughout the course of the game depending on how the game is going. Ending the regular season strong and winning for a potential second home playoff game is important, but so is having everyone healthy and available to start what the Lions hope is a long playoff run.

2. 1,000-YARD BACKS

Veteran running back David Montgomery is 25 yards shy of eclipsing 1,000 yards for the season. Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs needs 85 rushing yards to reach 1,000.

"That's big," Montgomery said this week of both players potentially reaching 1,000. "That's bigger than me doing it. If we can both do it that would be super big understanding that hasn't been done too often."

Montgomery and Gibbs would be just the sixth running back tandem in league history to accomplish the feat and the first since Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in Carolina in 2009.

"It would mean a lot for me and D-Mo and the rest of the offense," Gibbs said. "Shows dedication to the work we put in throughout this whole season. It would be special for the program."


The last time the Lions faced the Vikings Week 16, All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson accounted for six receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown in Detroit's 30-24 win.

How do the Lions go about trying to slow down Jefferson this time around?

"Yeah, I think some of it – combination with when we do double, how we're going to double," Campbell said. "But also, when it comes time to – we've got to challenge a little bit better at the line of scrimmage on some things. We've got to try to make some contact on a few things a little bit better. I think we can be better at on our own.

"Now look (Jefferson's) a heck of a player and he's going to make some plays. That's the nature of when you play somebody of his caliber, but I know we can be better."


Minnesota has named Nick Mullens their starting quarterback for today's contest. He was 22-of-36 passing for 411 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings' Week 16 matchup with Detroit. Mullens also threw four interceptions, the last to safety Ifeatu Melifonwu at the Detroit 5-yard line to end a comeback bid. Kerby Joseph had two picks in the game and rookie Brian Branch added another.

Mullens has five touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He's a gunslinging type of quarterback who isn't afraid to push the ball down the field and make tough throws. That's how big plays happen, but it's also going to give Detroit's secondary some opportunities for takeaways.

Mullens is the fourth quarterback to start for the Vikings this season. Can the Lions take advantage of those opportunities and force a few turnovers today at home?


Since the fourth quarter of Week 15 against the Bengals, the Vikings' defense has allowed 11 offensive touchdowns, per Packers quarterback Jordan Love accounted for a career-high four total touchdowns last week as Green Bay beat Minnesota 33-10.

Detroit put four touchdowns on the board in Week 16 -- three between Montgomery and Gibbs, and one Jared Goff passing touchdown – on way to scoring 30 points.

"I know that they probably haven't been as good the last couple three weeks maybe, than they have been the entire year, so they'll continue to tweak and evolve and look to execute their defense, so that's what we've got to combat here this week," Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said.

Minnesota's defense enters today's contest 12th in points allowed per game (20.8) and 16th in total defense (330.2).