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Week 16 opponent: What the Vikings are saying

Every week during the regular season we get an opportunity to talk with the opposing head coach via conference call. This week it was Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. I also scanned the Minnesota area media websites and the Vikings website, to see what else the Vikings players and coaches are saying about this week's matchup with the Lions.

Here's what they had to say:

1. Talented Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen is "pretty close" to being back to his old self after missing five games this year for mental health reasons. He had a sack last week against Miami, and has 4.5 sacks on the year in nine games.

2. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook said it's on him and fellow running back Latavius Murray to keep it going on the ground this week in order to help open up the receivers and the Vikings' pass game. Minnesota rushed for 220 yards in a 41-17 win over Miami last week, as the offense had it's most efficient showing of the season.

"The running game can open up a lot of stuff, man," Cook told

3. That's certainly a sentiment shared by Zimmer. He wanted more balance in the offense that before the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo two weeks ago was throwing the ball 66 percent of the time. He wants balance. I expect the Vikings to try to come out Sunday and establish the run early and often.

4. Consider Zimmer a fan of Lions second-year wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Zimmer really likes the way Golladay battles on 50-50 balls, and thinks he has a good future in front of him.

"They have a really good one there in him," Zimmer said of Golladay.

5. Zimmer noticed the Lions have changed their protections since the first matchup in which the Lions allowed 10 sacks and 17 hits on Matthew Stafford. He's seen on tape the change in some protections and also noted an effort by the Lions to get the ball out of Stafford's hands more quickly with some of their route concepts.

6. Asked what he expected from a Lions team with nothing to play for in terms of the playoffs, Zimmer said the focus is always first on his team and trying to win enough games to get them into the playoffs, but he does expect the Lions to continue to play hard under a new coach. He made the point that division games are always tougher the second time around.

"We're going to have to go out and play good and hard in order to win," Zimmer said.

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