Five things to know as Lions face the Vikings; plus prediction

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell

When the Lions take on the Vikings at Minnesota on Sunday, they will have both faced the Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks. 

The Eagles topped the Vikings 24-7 on Monday night and edged the Lions 38-35 in the opener.

It doesn’t take a math genius to figure that the Lions scored 35 points on the Eagles defense while the Vikes could only manage seven. That’s not necessarily how Lions coach Dan Campbell sees it.

“I thought of it more as it pertains to Minnesota. That’s a game on the road, hostile environment, their first road game. Philly got off to a pretty good start, did a couple of things tempo-wise that kind of got them on their heels a little bit,’’ Campbell said. “There are matchups in this league, some teams match teams a little bit differently or better and personnel wise I kind of felt it was one of those games. 

“I think this team we’re getting ready to play is a good football team. They’ve got serious firepower. They’re coming off a loss, they’re going to be ready to go, they’re back in their home crowd,’’ the coach said. “They’re 1-0 in their division. This is a big test for us.”

The Lions, who will play their first division game, have not won a road game since Dec. 6, 2020, when they topped the Bears 34-30 at Soldier Field. The Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers, 23-7, in the opener.

Five things to watch as the Lions (1-1) face the Vikings (1-1):

1. The Lions’ defense has given up an average of 152 rushing yards in the first two games. They’ll have their hands full with Vikings running back Dalvin Cook who has 26 carries for 107 yards along with seven catches for 37 yards. He’s still looking for his first touchdown. The biggest thing with him and we do have a lot of respect for him, I think he’s one of the best backs in the league,’’ said Todd Wash, Lions defensive line coach. “We believe they’re going to feed him this week and try to get him going. With him when it looks like he might hit a hole, he might hit one on the opposite side. He’s similar to Le’veon Bell. He might be in one spot, that doesn’t mean he’s going to stay there. He never stops his feet, he runs hard, heck of a jump cut. We have to be disciplined with our gap accountability and stay a little bit longer than we normally do to not allow a cutback.’’ So far defensive tackles Alim McNeil and Isaiah Buggs have been key to the Lions run defense.

2. Campbell said Jared Goff has been efficient. The quarterback needs to build on that. The LIons offense is tied for second in the NFL scoring 35.5 points per game and ranks fourth in total offense averaging 405.5 yards per game. So far Goff is 41 of 71 for 471 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and a 100.1 quarterback rating. “I thought he’s gotten us in the right play. I think he’s been pretty steady. I think when things haven’t gone perfect he’s always snapped back and finished the game strong,’’ Campbell said. “And man, he’s – listen, there’s a number of things we’ve been doing we’re asking him to get us into the right play in the pass game as well and he’s doing that. Man, he’s getting us into the right look, right play-call, and then he’s finding these receivers.

3. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back D’Andre Swift have been off to remarkable starts in the first two games. Wouldn’t expect them to let up now. The Vikings defense has given up 412 yards per game which ranks 29th in the NFL, one spot ahead of the Lions who have given up 425.5 yards per game. Give part of the credit to offensive coordinator Ben Johnson who has called the offense, but both of those guy are turning heads around the NFL.

4. It’s the first road game for the Lions this season. Campbell said most of the stress will be on the offense. “It really is communication where the most stress comes on your offense, because there’s been so much that’s been verbalized and you’re able to do that at home. On the road you can’t do it any more, not at a place like this where we’re going,’’ Campbell said. ”It’s been a while since we’ve tried to function or had to function like that. … I really believe that the key is us being able to be efficient with everything we do. It starts with (Jared) Goff and goes to the offensive line as well as the receivers. Defensively you’re used to not being able to verbally communicate, now it’s that switch it’s us being on the same page with how we communicate.’’

5. Injuries have been a factor in the Lions first two games but they’ve been able to go 1-1 despite key offensive line injuries, among others. This game they’ll be without defensive lineman John Cominsky who had thumb surgery on Tuesday and left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) for the second straight week. It’s expected Dan Skipper will get the start again for Jackson. Center Frank Ragnow (foot) could be back on the line while Aidan Hutchinson (thigh), T.J. Hockenson (hip) and D’Andre Swift (ankle) are questionable but could play.

(Prediction: Lions 28, Viking 24. Minnesota is coming off a loss on Monday night game and the Lions seem to have momentum.)

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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