The Vikings have made some adjustments on defense to slow the success of their opponent's passing game. This has included mixing blitzes with different looks up front and sprinkling in man coverage with the zone scheme they usually play.
It has helped confuse young quarterbacks like San Diego's Philip Rivers and the Giants' Eli Manning. Will it work against Detroit veteran Jon Kitna? We're about to find out.
The Lions passing attack gouged the Vikings for 359 net yards in a Week 2 overtime victory and is ranked seventh in the NFL. The strength of the Minnesota defense, of course, is its ability to stop the run but the Lions do a fine job of stopping their own running game.
This means Detroit will have to go to the air to beat the Vikings and young cornerbacks Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley, who has replaced the injured Antoine Winfield in three of the past four games, are going to have to be ready.
Offensively, Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has been solid the past two games and will look to continue to build on that development going against a Lions pass defense that joins the Vikings at the bottom of the NFL. Detroit is 31st and Minnesota is 32nd.
Detroit is far more effective against the run but this won't matter to a Vikings offense ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing. The Lions can expect a steady diet of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor.
The Vikings will mix in some play action to keep the Lions off balance and attempt to set up a few explosive pass plays down the field.
In their 20-17 overtime victory over the Vikings on Sept. 16, the Lions held running back Adrian Peterson to 66 yards on 20 carries and picked off quarterback Tarvaris Jackson four times. The Lions ran the ball very little against the Vikings last time — 14 carries by running backs — and probably won't run it much this time, either. They must get their sputtering passing attack humming again.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Lions RT Damien Woody, who hasn't played right tackle since high school, vs. Vikings LDE Kenechi Udeze, who has four sacks and 18 quarterback hurries this season. Woody lost his job as the starting right guard earlier this season, but he's moving over and back into the starting lineup now because, frankly, the Lions don't have a better option. It's going to be a tough adjustment for him in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. Udeze has an opportunity to pounce.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who is expected to return from a knee injury, vs. Lions run defense, which is tied for ninth in the NFL. Peterson managed only 66 yards on 20 carries in the teams' first meeting Sept. 16. But that was only his second NFL game, and if you didn't look at the stat sheet, you would swear Peterson had more. The Lions have had trouble tackling lately and allowed 101 yards to Green Bay's Ryan Grant on Thanksgiving Day. They must stay disciplined in their gaps and bring down Peterson — or Chester Taylor or Mewelde Moore.
Vikings CB Cedric Griffin vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson. The Lions will go to the air early and often against the Vikings and one matchup they could try to exploit is having rookie WR Calvin Johnson go against Griffin. Griffin has been a frequent target of offensive coordinators this season and there is no doubt Detroit's Mike Martz would like to see Johnson, the second overall pick in April's draft, matched up on Griffin. Johnson might have some extra incentive too, considering Vikings rookie sensation Adrian Peterson will be on the other sideline. Peterson went No. 7 overall in the draft but has played like a guy who should have been selected higher.
Vikings NT Pat Williams vs. Lions C Dominic Raiola. Williams has had another Pro Bowl-type season and consistently makes life miserable on opposing centers. Raiola will be the latest to try and slow Williams. The problem for Raiola is that he also is going to have to concern himself with another Pro Bowl tackle in Kevin Williams at times. The Lions already have trouble running the ball and the assignment isn't going to be any easier against these two.
Vikings RBs Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson vs. Lions MLB Paris Lenon. Taylor and Peterson pose a threat each time they get the ball, meaning Lenon will be counted on to help in run support. Peterson hasn't played in two games because of a knee injury and the Lions no doubt wish he would sit out again. The problem with the Taylor-Peterson combination is the pair presents completely different looks as runners but both are capable of going the distance each time they touch the ball. That means Lenon is likely to cheat toward the line of scrimmage whenever possible.
93rd meeting. Vikings lead series, 60-30-2, giving them their most victories against any NFL opponent. Minnesota is 32-12-1 against the Lions at home.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — Interceptions the Vikings returned for touchdowns in 1992, setting a team record. Minnesota has five this season, including three last Sunday in a 41-17 victory over the New York Giants.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Even during practice, whenever you get an interception in a drill, you have to run it and take it all the way and score, no matter if you're 10 yards away or 100 yards away. I think that we run that repetition in practice to get in that mindset and it has worked for us. We've been a defense that has scored with the football once we get turnovers, so it's a good thing that (defensive coordinator Leslie) Frazier makes us do." — Safety Darren Sharper, who had one of the Vikings' interception returns for a touchdown last Sunday, on the team's mindset about trying to score on defense.