This is an excellent chance for the Vikings' defense to regain some confidence. The Lions are a horrendously poor running team, ranking last in the NFL with an average of 80 yards per game.
For the first time in more than a month, the Vikings are hoping to be able to defend the run with only their front seven. That will allow the safeties, which have missed way too many tackles in run support the last four weeks, to concentrate on stopping the pass.
The Vikings are 28th in stopping the run (135.2) and have given up 261, 211 and 191 the past three games against Green Bay, San Diego and Oakland, respectively.
If the Vikings can make the Lions one-dimensional, that puts the game in the hands of Lions quarterback Joey Harrington. Harrington has thrown 15 interceptions, 11 touchdown passes and is completing only 54.1 percent.
The Lions ran for only 77 yards while Harrington threw three interceptions in the Vikings' 23-13 victory at Detroit on Sept. 21.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Vikings receivers Randy Moss and Kelly Campbell against Detroit cornerbacks Dre Bly and Otis Smith. In the first meeting, a 23-13 Vikings' victory at Detroit on Sept. 21, Moss and Campbell caught 72-yard passes from backup quarterback Gus Frerotte, who made his first appearance as a Viking after Daunte Culpepper fractured bones in his lower back. Bly had an interception and four tackles in the first meeting. Smith, a 14-year veteran, was forced to play in that game because starter Andre Goodman suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Moss had only three catches for 85 yards. Campbell had two for 85, including a 72-yard touchdown.
— Vikings return game against Lions kick coverage. The Vikings have improved their kickoff returns the past three weeks with Onterrio Smith as the primary kickoff returner. The team's first returns against San Diego and Oakland crossed midfield and should have set the tone for scoring drives. But the Vikings ended up punting against the Chargers and throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown against Oakland. Detroit ranks last in kickoff coverage (25.5) and has given up a touchdown. Smith is averaging 23.6 yards per return and opened with a 46-yarder against the Raiders.
INJURY IMPACT: LB Raonall Smith, who has been inactive the past four games because of a hamstring injury, is a solid special teams player. But the Vikings have enough young athletes to take his spot.
LIONS GAME PLAN
The Vikings have lost four in a row to some not-so-great teams (San Diego and Oakland, for instance) but it's hard to imagine the Lions shutting down the Minnesota offense, especially with CB Dre' Bly playing at something less than 100 percent with a hamstring. That being the case, they're going to have to score a load of points against a Minnesota defense that ranks 29th overall in the NFL, just to stay in the game. The Lions will have to attack, attack, attack but it won't be easy with their injury-depleted WR corps and their lack of a running game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Lions CB Dre' Bly vs. Vikings WR Randy Moss. The Lions felt pretty good about themselves after holding Moss to three catches for 85 yards in the Sept. 21 game although it came out later than Moss was playing sick.
INJURY IMPACT: The Lions could have even more problems than usual if they can't keep CB Dre' Bly (hamstring) and LB Boss Bailey (shoulder) on the field to deal with the Vikings' high-powered offense. Both Bly and Bailey will play but a reinjury could finish either of them for the day, as it did with Bailey last Sunday at Seattle. The loss of WRs Shawn Jefferson and Scotty Anderson leaves Mariucci in a precarious situation with only four WRs, including rookie David Kircus in his first NFL game.