Vikings-Lions Game Plan

The Lions have some offensive weaknesses for the Vikings to exploit, as they did last year with four interceptions against the Lions. But the Vikings also have some defensive weaknesses that the Lions will look to take advantage of if they are healthy enough.

VIKINGS GAME PLAN

After giving up 34, 31 and 34 points during their current three-game losing streak, the Vikings defense should get a breather, thus allowing the offense to get ahead, establish a running game and keep pace with the Packers in the NFC North.

The Lions have the worst running game in the NFL (75.7 yards per game) and rank 24th in points per game (18.2). The Vikings haven't been able to pound on teams with RBs Michael Bennett and Onterrio Smith because the team has fallen behind in each of the losses to the Giants (34-13), Colts (31-28) and Packers (34-31).

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie vs. Lions RE James Hall — Hall leads the Lions in sacks with 6.5 and forced fumbles with four. McKinnie gave up two sacks two weeks ago to Colts DE Dwight Freeney. The Lions are tied for third in the NFL with a plus-10 turnover differential.

Vikings secondary vs. Lions QB Joey Harrington — The Vikings picked off Harrington four times in the teams' most recent meeting, a 24-14 Vikings victory at the Metrodome last season. SS Corey Chavous and CB Brian Williams each returned interceptions for touchdowns. Williams had three of the four picks. The Vikings' defense has only four interceptions in nine games this season. Chavous and Williams don't have any. Harrington has thrown six interceptions, is completing just 56.4 percent of his passes and is on the verge of losing his job to backup Mike McMahon.

Vikings punt and kickoff units vs. Lions PR Eddie Drummond — The Vikings rank 30th in net punting (33.3) and tied for 27th in kickoff coverage (opponents' average starting point is the 30.2). Drummond leads the NFL in punt return average (15.2) and returned punts of 83 and 55 yards for touchdowns in the fourth quarter of last week's 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville. Drummond also is fifth in kickoff returns with a 25.9-yard average that includes a 99-yard touchdown return.

VIKINGS INJURY IMPACT

  • WR Randy Moss, who has missed two consecutive games because of a strained right hamstring, was upgraded to doubtful, but don't expect him to play until next week against Jacksonville. The Vikings are 0-2 with him on the sideline and 1-3 since he suffered the injury and was rendered ineffective. WR Nate Burleson and TE Jermaine Wiggins have become the Vikings' new go-to receivers. They're doing very well, but they aren't Randy Moss.

  • WLB Raonall Smith will miss his third consecutive game because of two recent concussions. As long as starter Chris Claiborne's strained left calf holds up from last week's game at Green Bay, the Vikings should be OK without Smith. Smith's presence will be missed more on special teams.

  • RB Mewelde Moore, who has missed the past two games because of a high ankle sprain, might miss a third consecutive game. The Vikings have moved on without him with Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith and Moe Williams, who finally has recovered from a strained calf muscle.

    LIONS GAME PLAN

    The Lions obviously can't afford to get into a shootout with the Minnesota scoring machine, so the defense is going to have to make a big contribution. They get a break in that WR Randy Moss is not expected to play, but they will have to do a much better job against the run than they have done the last three weeks. And then there is the matter of putting pressure on QB Daunte Culpepper.

    Offensively, rookie WR Roy Williams is slowly recovering from his sprained left ankle. If QB Joey Harrington can regain his passing accuracy, he will have to make maximum use of Williams against the Minnesota pass defense, ranked 29th in the NFL.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH

    Lions CB Dre' Bly vs. Vikings WR Nate Burleson. With WR Randy Moss expected to miss another game, Burleson is the bread-and-butter guy for QB Daunte Culpepper, averaging 13.2 yards on a team-high 43 receptions. Bly has not played at the same high level as last season since suffering a knee injury in the season opener.

    Lions WR Roy Williams vs. Vikings CB Antoine Winfield. Winfield has been one of the Vikings' leading playmakers all season and will probably be matched with Williams, who is playing despite a sprained left ankle.

    Lions QB Joey Harrington vs. Vikings DT Kevin Williams. Williams is leading the Vikings with QB sacks with six, and if he gets an inside push against the Lions' soft interior offensive line, he could create more havoc for Harrington, who has struggled the past two games.

    LIONS INJURY IMPACT

  • Injuries to WRs Az-Zahir Hakim (back) and Tai Streets (hamstring) could leave the Lions shorthanded at the wideout positions. WR Reggie Swinton is likely to get additional playing time if either Hakim or Streets can't play; WR David Kircus could get more work if they're both out.

  • DT Shaun Rogers has a stiff neck, but it's not likely he'll miss any playing time.


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