The talk of the town is the absurd fact that the host Detroit Lions are two-point favorites over the 10-2 visiting Vikings. While the Lions are no push-overs, the Vikings are the better team, and they’ll look to sweep the season series on Sunday. After re-watching much of the Week Three Vikings’ victory, here are some things I’d like repeated, and some things that need to change, if the Vikings are to be successful and lock up the NFC North.
Repeat This: Vikings Need An Effective Ground Game
Dalvin Cook led the way in Week Three with 17 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. This 5.6 yards per carry was on full display as the Vikings moved very well at times. Numbers-wise, Cook has had a good year, but I still feel that this team needs to commit more to the running game.
Against a defense like Detroit’s, a solid running game could be all we need to open up our offense and score a bunch of points. Fans have been clamoring for a game where the Vikings dominate an opponent, and I think we can do that if we establish the run again this time around.
Repeat This: The Vikings Need Adam Thielen Involved In The Offense
Another positive on offense from our Week Three victory was Adam Thielen. He had six catches on eight targets, for 61 yards and a touchdown. He was a key safety valve for Kirk Cousins over the middle and was his typical, efficient self.
While this does not mean I think he should take too many targets away from Justin Jefferson (more to come on him later), I think the Vikings should look to get every pass-catching weapon involved against this secondary.
Repeat This: Key Penalties From The Lions’ Secondary
This is a secondary that can be exploited, and it has been all year. However, the Lions did find a way to frustrate our receivers just enough to nearly steal one at U.S. Bank stadium. Their strategy was to play physically and with their hands.
This strategy made life difficult for the Vikings’ receivers, but it also led to some costly penalties. They had seven penalties for 59 yards, and the majority of those penalties were either defensive pass interference or illegal contact on the defense. These automatic first downs were clutch on several Vikings’ drives.
What Needs To Change: Justin Jefferson’s Production
Jefferson was perhaps the most frustrated of the Vikings receivers in Week Three, as he had his lowest output of the entire season. He only made three catches for 14 yards, and only had six targets altogether.
One of my favorite things about Justin Jefferson is that he is our best weapon, everyone knows it, and yet he still dominates. I want the Vikings to make a concerted effort to get him touches early in this game, and I think he can be the star of the game that clinches us the division title.
What Needs To Change: The Vikings Have To Hit Jared Goff
The Vikings recorded zero sacks in Week Three against Jared Goff. Additionally, they were only able to hit him twice. Any NFL quarterback would be successful with the lack of pressure Goff had to deal with.
Now, his stat line was not particularly great – 25/41 for 277 yards, one touchdown, and one interception – but he made key throws that led to key conversions. The Lions were four of six on fourth-down conversions, and part of this success was directly related to Goff’s comfort in the pocket. He had too much time to let plays develop over the middle of the field, and the Vikings need to fix this in Week 14.
What Needs To Change: Tighten Up That Zone
If and when Goff does get time in the pocket (no pass rush is perfect, right?) the Vikings’ secondary needs to be creating smaller windows than they did in Week Three.
On too many occasions did I see Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, or D.J. Chark gliding over the middle to catch an intermediate pass with room to run. I know our defense is supposed to allow some stuff underneath, but I want to see the Vikings’ defensive backs throw the Lions’ receivers off of their routes more this week. I hope that in Week Three the Vikings were still getting used to Ed Donatell’s scheme and that on Sunday they will come out aggressively.
Other Notable Notes
It was strange seeing T.J. Hockenson in Detroit silver and blue on the game replay since he already looks like he’s been a Viking for years. I expect another good contribution from Hockenson as he plays against his former team.
Greg Joseph was perfect on all five of his kicks against the Jets last week. After hearing about his adjustments from the Vikings’ special teams coach, this was an encouraging performance, and one that I need to see a few more times before I feel better about him going into the playoffs.
The Vikings fell behind 14-0 in Week Three against the Lions, and their comeback win was their first of nine wins by one possession or less. Every Vikings fan would love to see them win all four quarters, so let’s get an early lead and build it up all game.
Final Injury Report
For all of the details, check here for the final injury report. Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard is the only Viking that has been ruled out, but Harrison Smith, Christian Darrisaw, and Garrett Bradbury have been given the questionable tag. Even though the Vikings still have a lot to play for, I would hope they err on the side of caution and not rush anybody back.
On the Lions’ side of the ball, OL Evan Brown is doubtful, which could be of import since his backup, Kayode Awosika, has been ruled out already. Another player ruled out is linebacker Derrick Barnes, and they have some players either dinged up or suffering from illness in the secondary.
This is a weird one for me. Vegas has the Vikings as underdogs, and it also has one of the highest over/under total points amount as well. Everything indeed does point to a blowout, but we know how some of these divisional match-ups can play out.
Vikings fans will hope for, once again, a victory that is never in doubt, but I think this will be another close one. I think the offenses will be less prolific early-on, but then pick up the pace exchanging scores in the second half. I like the Vikings to keep the pressure on Philadelphia and the one seed, with a 34-22 victory on the road.
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