The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions will be meeting at Ford Field Sunday with the Vikings looking to improve to 4-2 and effectively bring an end to Detroit’s season prior to the midway point.
The Vikings have struggled badly on the road, so nothing is guaranteed, but they have every chance to bury Detroit and render their 2015 season moot.
Here are the 10 points of emphasis for this week that will be critical as to whether the Vikings start gaining a lot of league-wide steam at 4-2 or whether they will be coming home to Minnesota disconsolate with a 3-3 record and a continuation of their recent road woes.
Reverse the Curse – The Vikings are 0-2 on the road this year, which isn’t anything unusual. The Vikings have lost eight of their last nine road games under head coach Mike Zimmer, including a disappointing 17-3 loss to the Lions at Ford Field last year.
Strike First – The Vikings defense continues to be dominant in the first quarter. Through five games, they have allowed just three points in the first quarter. Despite their 1-5 start, the Lions have allowed just 13 points in the first quarter, so early scoring will be at a premium and could dictate the pace early on.
Ground and Pound – The Lions have been dominated on the ground this season. Through six games, they have rushed for just 399 yards – just 67 yards a game – while allowing opponents to rush for 724 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Passing Fancy – Opposing quarterbacks have posted a combined passer rating of 110.3 against the Lions, throwing for 1,691 yards, completing 72 percent of their passes and throwing for 10 touchdowns with just four interceptions. By contrast, Matthew Stafford has thrown 11 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Passing Fancy, Part II – The Vikings are last in the league in passing yards per game (179.6) and defenses have been packing the box against the run because they don’t respect the pass. Fortunately for the Vikings, the Lions have the 27th-ranked defense, including being 22nd against the pass.
What’s Your Point? – Only Jacksonville (176) has allowed more points to be scored against them than the Lions (172). Opponents are averaging 29 points a game against Detroit, which explains why three of their five losses have been by double digits.
Turning Over a New Leaf – The Vikings have turned the ball over just six times in five games, currently at plus-3 in the takeaway/giveaway ratio. Detroit is at minus-8, having turned the ball over 18 times (10 interceptions, eight lost fumbles).
Can You Diggs It? – In just two games, Stefon Diggs has caught 13 passes for 216 yards. He is second on the Vikings in yards per reception (16.6), is only 40 yards from being the team leader in receiving yards and is already third in receptions at 11. The Lions have three players with more than 30 receptions, but Diggs may be the wide receiver to watch Sunday.
Get Touchbacks After Touchdowns – Blair Walsh will be indoors, where he has a solid history of booming kickoffs out of the end zone. He will need to do that Sunday, because Detroit’s Ameer Abdullah is second in the NFL with a 30.6-yard average on kickoff returns.
Flag Feast – One of the biggest disparities the Vikings have had this season is first downs gained through penalties. The Vikings have just seven due to flags, while allowing 14. Detroit has 21 first downs via penalty – four more than they have gained rushing.