Minnesota at Detroit Game Preview

Breakdown preview of the Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions battle in week-three of the NFL season.

Minnesota Vikings (2-0) at Detroit Lions (1-1)


KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

SURFACE: FieldTurf

TV: FOX, Curt Menefee, Tim Green

SERIES: 84th meeting between the Lions and Vikings. Since losing seven of the first nine games, the Vikings -- for the most part – have dominated the series. The Lions haven't won the season series since 1997 and have lost eight of the 10 games since that. Minnesota won

both games last year.


2003 RANKINGS: Vikings: offense 4th (3rd rush, 21st pass); defense 4th (3rd rush, 12th pass). Lions: offense 24th (31st rush, 16th pass); defense 28th (26th rush, 24th pass)


KEYS TO THE GAME: Lions QB Joey Harrington needs help from his running game and to use short, quick passes to fend off the Vikings' pass rush, which Minnesota will attempt to enhance by bringing LB Nick Rogers as an edge rusher. Harrington should benefit from the return

of WR Az-Zahir Hakim, who missed the first two games recovering from a hip injury. The Vikings proved last week they have enough weapons if defenses load up against WR Randy Moss. But the Lions don't have to corners to matchup with Moss, so any help they're forced

to provide takes away from an already porous run defense. The Vikings will try to wear the Vikings down through the running game.


FAST FACTS: Vikings: The team is 14-4 when QB Daunte Culpepper has a passer rating of 100.0 or better. ... Trying to become 10th team since 1970 to open a season with three consecutive division wins. ...Minnesota has a five-game winning streak dating back to last season.


Lions: QB Joey Harrington has won four of his past five starts at home. ... Harrington has been sacked only once in the first two games.




-- RB Doug Chapman, who missed the Bears game because of a high ankle sprain and soreness in his Achilles' tendon, practiced Thursday, but it wasn't in full pads. He'll be a game-time decision.

-- WR D'Wayne Bates bruised his left foot against the Bears and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He is wearing a protective boot. He was downgraded to questionable and won't play if he isn't able to test the foot in practice Friday.

-- SS Corey Chavous, who played against the Packers despite a sprained right knee, has practiced all week. He'll play, but he's not 100 percent.

-- FS Jack Brewer has been out since suffering a chest injury in the final preseason game. He has returned to practice, but won't play until next week against San Francisco.

-- RB Michael Bennett has been out since fracturing his foot during the offseason. His foot specialist told him last week the foot is healing well. The Vikings believe Bennett has a chance to return in time for the Nov. 2 game against the Packers.

-- WR Keenan Howry might have earned a look in multi-receiver sets if No. 2 receiver D'Wayne Bates (foot) doesn't play. Howry is averaging 12.0 yards per punt return with a long of 35.

-- RT Mike Rosenthal, a former Giant, is enjoying the Vikings' more straightforward blocking schemes. The Vikings lead the NFL with 75 rushes.

-- RB Onterrio Smith said he's excited to "take out some frustrations" on the Lions. He said the Lions told him they were going to select him in the fourth round. But the Lions took Kentucky RB Artose Pinner, despite the fact Pinner had broken his left leg in the Senior Bowl and still isn't able to play. The Vikings selected Smith six spots later.

-- P Eddie Johnson and K Aaron Elling are working with noted kicking coach Doug Blevins this week. Blevins is a guest at Winter Park this week.

-- FS Brian Russell has two of the team's five interceptions. The Vikings had only 16 interceptions all of last season.



-- WR Az-Zahir Hakim says he is ready to make his comeback from a season-ending hip injury last Nov. 17 and it appears Lions coach Steve Mariucci might agree with him this time. Mariucci kept Hakim out of the Green Bay game, but Hakim has practiced every day this

week and will probably play against Minnesota.

-- LB James Davis is one of only two Lions players on this week's injury report. Both he and Az-Zahir Hakim are listed as questionable. Hakim will probably play but Davis, although he is practicing, had rib cartilage damage Aug. 16 against Cincinnati and might not be entirely

ready for special teams work.

-- DT Cory Redding thought he was ready to rejoin the Lions' defensive line rotation a week ago but coach Steve Mariucci kept him down, giving him another week of practice and recovery time. The rookie suffered a sprained knee in the second preseason game and hasn't

played since. It's likely he'll be available Sunday against Minnesota if Mariucci feels he needs another DT.

-- WR Charles Rogers has locked up the starting flanker position for the Lions but his contributions have been modest. He had four receptions for 38 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Arizona and had four receptions for 38 yards (no touchdowns) against Green Bay also. His long play is a 17-yard gain.

-- RB Shawn Bryson has been the most productive back in the Lions offense which ranks 24th overall and 31st in rushing yardage. Bryson has gained 51 yards on 12 carries in addition to 89 yards on eight receptions coming out of the backfield. He is part of coach Steve Mariucci's

running back-by-committee since RB James Stewart was lost for the season with a shoulder injury.




Vikings receiver D'Wayne Bates hasn't practiced this week and is walking around in a protective boot on his left foot. He was downgraded to questionable and won't play unless he's able to test the foot in practice Friday.


Although Bates is the No. 2 receiver behind Randy Moss, the Vikings can afford to play at least one game without him. Bates, who was injured in the 23-14 victory over the Bears last week, has only four catches for 33 yards, although he did have a nice TD catch in single coverage in the red zone against Green Bay two weeks ago.


Bates is a solid player whose status as No. 2 receiver comes only because of he's a veteran. He has had only one 100-yard receiving game in his career, and that came in 2001 when he was with the Bears.


Second-year pro Kelly Campbell and rookie Nate Burleson, who are interchangeable as the Nos. 3-4 receivers, are much more explosive playmakers. Campbell's 51-yard reception on the first play against the Bears last week is a team-high this season. Burleson has been quiet

during the regular season, but he led the team in receiving yards during the preseason.


If Bates doesn't play, the Vikings will move Campbell to No. 2 andBurleson to No. 3. They'll also activate Kenny Clark for the game. Clark is quarterback Daunte Culpepper's cousin.


The Vikings have been fortunate so far when it comes to injuries. They haven't had a starter miss a start in two games.


The Lions' game Sunday against Minnesota could be very revealing as to what the Lions can expect of themselves in the 2003 NFL season. They are 1-1 with a not-altogether-impressive victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field and an entirely unimpressive loss to the

Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.


Coach Steve Mariucci warned the media and Lions fans after the Green Bay game that a young, developing team can be expected to endure ups and downs similar to those the Lions already have experienced.


The question is whether the Lions can put together enough elements of a competitive football team to have as many ups as they have downs in the course of a 16-game season.


Although Lions president Matt Millen made a number of offseason moves he felt would upgrade the Lions in their defense, the Lions gointo the Minnesota game with the No. 28 defense in the NFL. They were burned for a 217-yard receiving day by Arizona rookie Anquan

Boldin in the opener and a 160-yard rushing day by Ahman Green in the second game. If there has been any improvement, it hasn't surfaced yet.


Millen and Mariucci are hoping first-round draft pick Charles Rogers will make an early impact but his production so far has been modest --four catches for 38 yards in each game -- and his longest reception has been for 17 yards.


It appears likely that slot receiver Az-Zahir Hakim will make his return from last year's season-ending hip injury. If he does, QB Joey Harrington will have a much-needed target with speed and quickness.

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