For whatever reason, the Vikings have had their fair share of trouble with the Lions in recent years. Things won’t be easy against the only NFC North team to win on the road at U.S. Bank Stadium, but the Vikings should be able to make enough big plays to prevail.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Lions undefeated at U.S. Bank Stadium
Through the Vikings’ first two seasons at U.S. Bank Stadium, they’ve swept both the Packers and the Bears. The Lions, however, won their first two games at the stadium. Mike Zimmer is 3-5 against Detroit.
Comeback for Cook on Sunday?
RB Dalvin Cook, who missed five of the past six games because of a hamstring injury, is hoping to return to face the team against which he tore his ACL last year. A source told the Star Tribune the Vikings hope Cook can play 15-20 snaps, though the team had the same plan on Oct. 14 against the Cardinals before Cook was deactivated following his pregame workout.
Thielen chases another record
Having broken the NFL record for the most consecutive 100-yard games to start a season (eight), WR Adam Thielen can fashion the longest streak of 100-yard games — at any point of the season — as he tries to top Calvin Johnson’s mark of eight games. The Vikings might need to rely on Thielen more, as Stefon Diggs is questionable because of a rib injury.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Lions WR Marvin Jones
The Vikings have assigned Rhodes to shadow Jones in recent meetings, as Jones has asserted himself as the Lions’ top downfield threat. Big WR Kenny Golladay will also occupy plenty of attention with Golden Tate now inPhilly, but Jones — who’s coming off a 117-yard day against the Seahawks — could be Rhodes’ assignment.
Vikings C Pat Elflein vs. Lions DT Damon Harrison
The Vikings’ assignment, against a Lions team that has allowed the most rushing yards in the league this season, will be tougher than usual now that Detroit acquired Harrison from the Giants. The 355-pound tackle is considered one of the best run stoppers in the league, and he will be a load for Elflein and company to move on Sunday.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
176 Yards by which the Vikings have outgained the Lions over the past two years. Detroit is 3-1 in those games, despite posting more yards than the Vikings just once (on Thanksgiving Day 2016, when the Lions outgained the Vikings by 2 yards).
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
They can establish a solid running game with both Cook and Latavius Murray, which should help them avoid some of the turnovers that have plagued them in losses this season, while containing Kerryon Johnson and getting beyond a solid Lions offensive line to put pressure on Matthew Stafford.
THE LIONS WILL WIN IF…
They are able to goad Cousins into a turnover or two as they make him throw under duress on roughly 40 percent of his dropbacks (which he has been forced to do in recent weeks) while taking an early lead and keeping the Vikings from testing their 32nd-ranked run defense.
Goessling's Prediction: Vikings, 23-16
Win Probability: 65 percent