When: Noon Sunday, U.S. Bank Stadium
TV, radio: Ch. 9, 100.3-FM
Line: Vikings by 5½
THREE STORY LINES
Vikings try to rebound on a short week
The Vikings have not ended September with a winning record since 2017; to finish the month 2-1 on Sunday, they will have to shake off a 24-7 loss to the Eagles on Monday night and play well against an improved Lions team that nearly came back to beat Philadelphia in Week 1 before winning against Washington last week. The Lions were 0-10-1 heading into their game against the Vikings last December; they are 4-4 since then, counting their victory over Minnesota at Ford Field in that game..
Smith's absence means new starter at safety
With Harrison Smith out for Sunday's game because of a concussion, either third-year player Josh Metellus or first-round pick Lewis Cine will make his first career start at safety. Coach Kevin O'Connell said the Vikings will have plans for both players, though Metellus, who came in for Smith after he was injured at Philadelphia, seemed in line to start this week. Cine was the player the Vikings picked 32nd overall in April after trading down 20 spots with the Lions in the first round of the draft.
Vikings expect more pressure from Lions
After the Eagles spent much of the second half sending extra rushers after Kirk Cousins on Monday night, the Vikings will face a Lions team that sends five or more defenders after the quarterback more frequently than almost any team in the NFL. The Vikings could try to counteract the Lions pass rush — led by No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson — by moving the pocket more frequently for Kirk Cousins, or by trying to jump-start a screen game that struggled on Monday.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Lions CB Jeff Okudah
Okudah was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft; Jefferson, who went 19 picks later, has become one of the stars of his draft class. The two have only been on the field once together, given how much time Okudah has missed because of injury, and they figure to see plenty of one another on Sunday.
Vikings defensive line vs. Lions offensive line
Dan Campbell's offense brings a power running game to Minnesota behind a line that features three former first-round picks (Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell) clearing the way for D'Andre Swift. The Vikings, who have used light defensive boxes more than any team in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season, will lean on Jonathan Bullard, Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson to occupy blockers up front and keep the Lions from getting a consistent push.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
7.2: The Lions' average yards per rush through the first two weeks of the NFL season. Only one other team — the Saints, at 6.4 yards per carry — is within a yard of Detroit's mark.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
They can keep Detroit from running the ball enough to put Jared Goff in the kinds of favorable down-and-distance situations where he can find Amon-Ra St. Brown downfield, while their offense does a better job of handling Detroit's pressure than it did with Philadelphia's blitz packages last week. The Vikings could also have opportunities to get Dalvin Cook going after two quiet weeks for the running back.
THE LIONS WILL WIN IF …
They are able to quiet the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd down with long drives, force Cousins into the kinds of ill-advised throws he made a week ago and use their pass rush to keep the Vikings from finding Justin Jefferson downfield. Goff has only thrown one interception through two weeks; taking similar care of the football would go a long way toward a Lions win on the road.
The Lions are tougher up front than they have been in recent memory, and their pass rush could give the Vikings plenty to think about, a week after the Eagles put plenty of pressure on Cousins. But the Vikings are back at home, where the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd should give Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter a bit more of an edge in trying to rush Goff, and it could be a big day for Cook and Jefferson if the Vikings offensive line can set the skill position players up for success. The Vikings will win a close one to get to 2-1. Vikings 27, Lions 23