Gameday: Lions (0-4) at Vikings (2-2)

Detroit's offense is showing progress in coordinator Mike Martz's system. The key is the line creating holes for RB Kevin Jones and time for QB Jon Kitna. The Vikings have solid cover men, so Kitna must be accurate because the Lions can't afford to lose the turnover battle. Complete game preview inside.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers

SERIES: 90th meeting in a series that began in 1961. Although the Lions won the first five games against the expansion Vikings, they trail the overall series 29-58-2 and have lost the eight games between the two teams. Their last win at the Metrodome was a 14-13 nail-biter in 1997.

2006 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 16th (29th rush, 7th pass); defense 26th (10th rush, 30th pass). Vikings: offense 16th (22nd rush, 11th pass); defense 10th (11th rush, 14th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Vikings have been their own worst enemy by averaging 9.5 penalties per game, handicapping an offense that lacks big-time playmakers. Minnesota relies on sustaining long drives and controlling field position, but expect QB Brad Johnson to take more shots against the Lions' struggling secondary. Detroit isn't rushing the passer well, leaving the corners to cover far too long. But the Lions do have a solid run defense that could provide a boost if it's able to shut down Vikings RB Chester Taylor and allow the safeties to concentrate on providing support in the passing game. Detroit's offense is showing progress in coordinator Mike Martz's system. The key is the line creating holes for RB Kevin Jones and time for QB Jon Kitna. The Vikings have solid cover men, so Kitna must be accurate because the Lions can't afford to lose the turnover battle.

FAST FACTS: Lions: Have lost eight consecutive games in the Metrodrome. ... WR Roy Williams seeks his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game. Vikings: Have won the past eight meeting overall. ... QB Brad Johnson has won his past five starts against Detroit.

PREDICTION: Lions 23 - Vikings 17

PERSONNEL NEWS
    LIONS

  • WR Mike Williams, the Lions' first-round pick in the 2005 draft, has been active for only two of the team's first four games and still hasn't had a pass thrown his way, but coach Rod Marinelli said he has practiced well and has stepped up his work habits. Coaches have said complimentary things about Williams earlier this season, however, but they have not yet translated into a meaningful role for him in the offense.
  • S Kenoy Kennedy has missed the past two games with a foot injury and his return is now being considered on a week-to-week basis, according to coach Rod Marinelli. Kennedy is still not able to participate in the team portion of practice, but Marinelli expressed hope he might return next week.
  • LB Donte' Curry is living up to his responsibility as one of the Lions' five team captains. Curry, the special teams captain, is leading the team in special teams tackles with nine in the first four games and is also seeing action in a backup role at middle linebacker.
  • CB Dre' Bly, a two-time Pro Bowler, is due for an interception. In his first three seasons with the Lions, he never went more than four games without an interception. He leads the Lions with nine passes defensed in the first four games but is still without an interception in 2006.
  • WLB Ernie Sims, the Lions' first-round draft pick in April, is leading the team with 44 tackles through the first four games. He currently has 19 tackles more than MLB Boss Bailey, who is second on the team.

        VIKINGS
  • LB Ben Leber practiced again Thursday and appears set to play against Detroit after missing the Buffalo game because of a sprained left knee.
  • QB Tarvaris Jackson (knee) was mostly a spectator at Thursday's practice and continues to be listed as questionable on the injury report.
  • TE Jermaine Wiggins is listed as questionable because of a hamstring injury but again did not miss any practice time Thursday.
  • K Ryan Longwell rejoined his teammates but still missed a portion of practice Thursday because of strep throat. Longwell had stayed home Wednesday to rest. He had a fever of 102.1 degrees that broke in the early evening. He is listed as probable for Sunday and expects to be fine.
  • CBs Ronyell Whitaker and Cedric Griffin are expected to continue to rotate in the nickel package Sunday. That could change if Antoine Winfield's thigh injury becomes a factor.
  • CB Charles Gordon, a rookie free agent out of Kansas who is on the Vikings' practice squad, could be activated if the team is concerned about CB Antoine Winfield's health.

    INSIDE THE CAMPS
        LIONS
    The last time the Lions won a game in the Metrodome, quarterback Jon Kitna was a still a virtual youngster in the NFL, coming off a stint with Barcelona in the World League and hoping to make it big with the Seahawks.

    Eight years later, the Lions are trying to break an eight-game road losing streak against the Vikings, and Kitna, after career stops in Seattle and Cincinnati, is running their offense, hoping to get the Lions their first win of the season.

    Despite the signs of life coming from the Lions offense in the play of himself, running back Kevin Jones and wide receivers Roy Williams and Mike Furrey, Kitna says the Lions still have a major challenge awaiting them at Minnesota.

    "The only thing that matters in this league is wins and losses, and right now we haven't won a game," Kitna said. "The longer it goes, the harder it gets. Right now, having to go to Minnesota and having them coming off a two-game losing streak, playing at home and all that stuff, we've got our work cut out for us.

    "But does that mean we can't do it? No. Does that mean if we go out and play like we're capable of playing, that we will win? Yes, that's what it means."

    Although the Lions have scored 58 points in the past two games -- 24 against Green Bay and 34 against St. Louis -- they still haven't been able to get new coach Rod Marinelli his first NFL win. And, as encouraging as the show of offense might be, Kitna says it doesn't mean a thing.

    "Is momentum shifting?" he asked, rhetorically. "I wouldn't say that. Momentum starts to shift and you gain confidence by winning in this league."

        VIKINGS
    The Vikings will take a banged-up secondary into their game with Detroit on Sunday at the Metrodome.

    Left cornerback Antoine Winfield and strong safety Darren Sharper are both nursing leg injuries suffered last Sunday at Buffalo. The duo is confident they will be able to play against the Lions, although both are listed as questionable on the injury report.

    Winfield has not practiced this week and Sharper was very limited Wednesday before going full speed Thursday.

    The Vikings did not divulge Winfield's injury until late Wednesday when he showed up on the injury report because of a thigh problem. Winfield said he was hurt in the third quarter but was able to remain in the game. On the plane ride home, the area just above his left knee began to swell badly.

    "I went and got an MRI and they said it's a strain or a tear," he said. "They are saying it's the quad or something."

    Winfield still appeared to be walking gingerly Thursday but said, "I'll be good by Sunday."

    Sharper suffered a bruised left quadriceps in the second quarter against the Bills and left the game in the fourth quarter. He departed Ralph Wilson Stadium on crutches but was feeling better after "round-the-clock treatment."

    "I felt I moved around pretty well," Sharper said Thursday.

    Winfield and Sharper both have rookies behind them on the depth chart. Second-round pick Cedric Griffin would start in Winfield's place, and fifth-round selection Greg Blue would start for Sharper.

    Both rookies have received experience.

    Blue started the season opener at free safety when Dwight Smith was deactivated for disciplinary reasons. Blue also came in at Buffalo to replace Sharper. Griffin, meanwhile, has taken on a bigger role in the nickel package and also started in Fred Smoot's place at right cornerback on Sept. 24 at Chicago.


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