The Vikings return home to Minnesota in Week 3 to face the Detroit Lions. I find it hard not to state the obvious here; we need to win. And not just for the wins and losses column, either, this team needs to show they can rebound and regain momentum after adversity. Here are several things the Vikings can do to help their cause at the Bank on Sunday.
Be Aggressive Early
Usually, I prefer the Vikings to start on defense when playing at home. I typically like to force a stop to get the crowd involved, and then take the lead on our first drive. This week, however, I want our offense to come out first. I want to see Kirk Cousins get into a rhythm. I want to see Dalvin Cook rush for thirty or so yards, and I want to see a touchdown to Adam Thielen. Then, we can carry the momentum onto the defensive side of the ball.
The Lions have a good offense this year. D’Andre Swift has looked electric out of the backfield, and Amon-Ra St. Brown is coming off a monster performance against the Commanders. He totaled 116 yards receiving with two touchdowns and even added 68 yards rushing. Jared Goff has looked decent as well, but he will make mistakes if you force his hand. The Vikings need to pressure him early and often. Even if the Lions get a first down or two on their first drive, I will feel okay if the Vikes are flying off the ball. I think we need to get some QB hits in early, and this will set us up to get a key takeaway later in the game.
Spark That Creativity On Offense
The Vikings should come out with a variety of looks to make the young Lions’ secondary think. In addition to how we often-times motion Justin Jefferson pre-snap, the Vikings should look to incorporate some jet sweeps to Jalen Reagor. Additionally, I would like to see the Vikings work in a couple of no-huddle plays to get into a rhythm and keep the Lions from making some defensive subs.
Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a flea flicker or some other trick play on one of our early drives. I have to think Detroit is going to look at the tape from the Philadelphia game and feel like they can follow a similar game plan against the Vikings. Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks against Washington, and the Lions had five total. They will be salivating after seeing how the Eagles pressured Kirk Cousins, so I want to see the Vikings throw them off.
Lions Are Pushovers No More – Can’t Take The Kitties Lightly
There are no guaranteed victories in the NFL. This is especially true in divisional matchups (see Week 13 against the Lions last season). However, the Lions have been a team that the Vikings have been able to see primarily provide them with a W in recent years. Excluding last year’s debacle, you have to look back to the 2017 season for the last time the Vikings did not sweep their season series against the Lions.
This year, however, the Lions look legitimate. They narrowly lost to the Eagles team that just handled the Vikings, and then outpaced the Washington Commanders in Week 2. I’m going to put this out into the universe in case anyone at TCO Performance Center needs to hear it: Do not take this team lightly. Thankfully, while they have looked exciting and competitive, they are nowhere near dominant, especially on defense.
Lions Defense Can Be Exploited – Vikings Need To Pick Up The Blitz
While they have competed and won one of two games in the early goings this season, the Lions have participated in high scoring affairs in both weeks. Oddly enough, against the Commanders, they were pitching a shutout until the second half, but then gave up 27 points. Naturally, my first thought was that the Lions fell into a safe, prevent-type defense to allow short stuff underneath, and that they allowed points simply because they had let off. But instead, it looked like they were still bringing pressure quite frequently, much like they did throughout the first half.
On one particular fourth-quarter drive from the Commanders where the Lions were sending extra blitzers almost every play; it looked like Washington had finally been able to pick up a blitz. Additionally, I saw some of those jet sweeps I’m hoping to see the Vikings use as change-of-pace running plays. Point being, I think that the pressure was the primary reason the Lions defense was so effective in the first half. This is not exactly encouraging, as we were recently pressured all night by the Eagles. But, I do think this coaching staff can get its guys better prepared to take advantage of the Lions having less players in coverage when they blitz.
The biggest news has to be that Harrison Smith has been ruled out of the Lions game after suffering a concussion in Philadelphia. Kevin O’Connell said that Josh Metellus and Lewis Cine could both see some extra time. Either way, not having Harry policing the secondary is a huge loss. The Vikings will also still be without rookie Andrew Booth, and Eric Kendricks is listed as questionable.
For the Lions, guard Jonah Jackson and DL John Cominsky have been ruled out. TE T.J. Hockenson, C Frank Ragnow, RB D’Andre Swift, and DL Aidan Hutchinson are officially questionable, though all but Ragnow played significant snaps last week.
Stating The Obvious
I had a hard time writing this preview because everything the Vikings need to do seems so obvious. So, I thought I would rank the three most important keys to the game here:
- Vikings need to score first. Or, they at least need to be winning the momentum battle early. They can’t let too much negativity play a role in the mental game, and they need some positive rhythm to help forget about Philadelphia.
- Kirk needs time in the pocket. The Eagles were able to fluster Cousins, and now all I see on the internet are highlights of him throwing to covered receivers as opposed to open ones. While I’m sure there is more nuance to these plays, Kirk did not pass the “comfortability eye test” (wait, that isn’t, nor should be a thing) on Monday night. He needs to be able to connect with JJ and Thielen early on, and he needs to feel like he has options when he drops back.
- Dalvin Cook needs to be a factor. Simple as that. We don’t need to run every play, but he needs to be a threat on offense. Translation: the Vikings offense needs to be on the field long enough for their skill players to have the opportunities to impact the game.
I do think the Vikings rebound in Week 3. I refuse to believe their Week 1 dismantling of the Packers was a mirage. Instead, I now believe that the Eagles are better than I thought, and that Kevin O’Connell was always going to have to take a bad loss in his rookie season, so I’m okay with that happening in Week 2.
The Vikings are still the best team in the NFC North. I think the Lions are for real, so the game will be close. I’ll take the Vikings 28, Lions 17. I think a key Jared Goff pick early in the fourth will give us a solid lead that we can nurse to the final whistle. All of SKOL territory will be able to take a breath, and then we’ll head to London feeling just fine.
How do you think the game will go? Let me know, @Jlime8 on Twitter. You can also now follow The Daily Skol on Twitter, and listen to The Daily Skol Podcast here. And don’t forget to stay here on thedailyskol.com for Vikings analysis, player spotlights, and more!