Friday, June 2 2023

Who knew at the start of the season that the Minnesota Vikings‘ hopes of clinching a playoff berth historically early would come down to the Detroit Lions?

The Lions could have helped the Vikings clinch the NFC North last weekend, which would have tied for the earliest a team locked up its division in the Super Bowl era. (The 1973 Vikings were one of those early-bird teams.) But while Minnesota held up its end of the bargain, Detroit didn’t. The Vikings beat the New York Jets in another dramatic finish, and the Lions just needed to lose to or tie the Jacksonville Jaguars in order for Minnesota to lock up the North.

Instead, the Lions hung 40 points on Trevor Lawrence and the Jags and got their fourth win in their past five games. In fact, during that five-game span, Detroit is averaging 28.4 points per game. The Lions, in fact, are one of only three NFL teams (Chiefs, Cowboys) to score 40 or more points in multiple games this season.

That’s a lot of points.

Jared Goff on Lions’ 40-14 win over Jaguars

Jared Goff talks with FOX Sports’ Jen Hale about how Detroit was able to move the ball so well in the Lions’ 40-14 victory.

This Sunday, the 10-2 Vikings can clinch with a direct win over the 5-7 Lions in Detroit (1 p.m. ET on FOX). The question is, will the Vikings do it? Or will they have to wait yet another week?

These two division foes have already faced each other this season, and the final score of the Week 3 matchup was close, with Minnesota winning 28-24. The Vikings are now 9-1 in their past 10 matchups with Detroit. So even with all the points the Lions are scoring, the odds aren’t exactly in their favor, especially when you consider the Vikings are probably a better team than they were earlier in the season.

“I would say it’s a better version of what they were because they’ve continued to win,” said Lions head coach Dan Campbell. “This is a winning team. They found ways to win, that’s what they do. And those are the hard teams because they’ve done it against multiple opponents, different ways. Special teams, offense, defense, they’re finding ways to win.”

There is hope for the Lions, though. In fact, they’re actually favored over the Vikings, according to Vegas. Detroit very well could keep up its scoring streak considering Minnesota ranks 31st in total defense, allowing 398.7 total yards per game. The problem is, the Lions defense ranks 32nd, allowing 402.2 total yards per game.

“All hands on deck this week,” said Campbell. “And our fans have got to show up, which I know they will. This is going to be electric. This is big. It’s big for our players, it’s big for us, shoot, it’s a big game for them. But man, look, they’re all special, but this is one of those games, this is why you’re into coaching, this is why you’re into playing, this is why you love the game of football. It’s going to be awesome.”

Key stats: The Vikings are 9-0 in one-score games this season. With a victory on Sunday, Minnesota would win the NFC North division title for the first time since 2017.

Matchup to watch: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Lions CB Jeff Okudah

Jefferson ranks second in the NFL with 1,277 receiving yards, and his heroics were on display again last weekend against the Jets. Jefferson scored the Vikings’ final touchdown of the afternoon, a 10-yard contested snag in the end zone from Kirk Cousins that put Minnesota up by two scores. The Vikings defense ended up sealing the game, but Jefferson is always a factor. Should the Lions allow Jefferson another triple-digit day, odds are the Vikings will emerge victorious. Minnesota is 7-0 when Jefferson has 100 or more receiving yards this season.

Justin Jefferson’s jaw-dropping catch propels Vikings

In Week 10, Justin Jefferson made the catch of the year to help the Vikings beat the Bills 33-30 in overtime. Jefferson snatched the ball from Buffalo DB Cam Davis for a 32-yard gain that kept the Vikings alive. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe react.

Prediction: I’m going with Vegas on this one. While I believe in Minnesota this season, I don’t think the team is totally beyond its “Vikings tendencies” from the past however many years. Plus, the Lions are just playing so well right now, plain and simple. Their one loss in the past five games came to the Buffalo Bills, whom they took down to the wire. The Lions are also top-10 in offensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, and with the number of points that Minnesota is giving up on a per-game basis, I think this is a shootout that the Lions end up winning.

 Lions 38, Vikings 34

Minnesota Vikings


Detroit Lions


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Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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Source: FOX Sports


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