The Detroit Lions (0-4) travel to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday to take on their NFC North rival, the Minnesota Vikings (1-3).
Both teams have had some close calls and heartbreaking losses to start off 2021. The Lions lost to the Ravens in Week 3 on Justin Tucker’s NFL-record 66-yard field. The Vikings lost to Cincinnati in overtime and to the Arizona Cardinals when kicker Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired.
Detroit might just be the remedy the Vikings need to get their season back on track. The Lions have lost eight straight games dating back to last season, the second longest active streak behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and their 19 consecutive losses. They have also lost seven straight to Minnesota, having last won in Week 4 of the 2017 season.
The Vikings offense should be able to carve this Lions defense. Detroit is giving up the 29th most points in the league with 29.8 points allowed per game.
Minnesota has the personnel to take advantage of it.
Kirk Cousins is 11th in the NFL in passing yards with 1,121 yards. He has also thrown nine touchdowns to only one interception.
He has one of the best wide receiving duos in football. Second-year pro Justin Jefferson is building upon his superb rookie season with 338 yards and three TDs through four games. His yard total ranks tenth in the NFL. His partner in crime, Adam Thielen, has 227 yards and four touchdowns.
Cousins also has one of the best running backs in the league at his disposal in Dalvin Cook. Last season, Cook ran for a career-high 206 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. In his career, he averages over six yards per carry versus Detroit and has scored six TDs in six games.
Detroit, on the other hand, has struggled on the offensive side of the ball. They are 24th in the league with just over 20 points per game. Quarterback Jared Goff has the eighth-worst QBR at 40.6 through four games.
Lead back D’Andre Swift has struggled to get going and has been outplayed by fellow running back Jamaal Williams. His receiving numbers are better than his rushing numbers as he has 139 yards and a score on the ground while he has 199 yards and a touchdown through the air. He is also only averaging 3.4 yards per carry.
Williams, on the other hand, leads the team in rushing with 187 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 4.5 YPC.
Goff has also been unable to find a reliable weapon in the receiving corps. Tight end T.J. Hockenson started the season off on fire with 163 yards and two touchdowns with 16 receptions in the first two games. In the two games since, he has 52 yards, no scores and six catches.
Injuries will certainly impact this game.
Detroit will be without multiple key players and starters in this one. They placed center Frank Ragnow (toe) and linebacker Romeo Okwara (Achilles) on injured reserve on Wednesday. They may also be without Williams (hip), Swift (groin), Hockenson (knee) and offensive tackle Penei Sewell (ankle), who are all listed as questionable for this game.
Minnesota will be without defensive tackle Michael Pierce (elbow) and cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler (illness) and Harrison Hand (undisclosed) for this game. Cook (ankle) is questionable but is expected to play.
This game should be a get right game for Minnesota. Detroit is not playing well under Dan Campbell and the loss last week to the Chicago Bears was evidence of that.
That being said, I think the Lions will come to play and keep this game a little closer than most people expect. The Vikings will be in control from the start, but Detroit should keep this game within reach.
The Vikings will pull out the win and make it eight straight and get to 2-3 on the year while Detroit will lose their ninth straight game and fall to 0-5 under Campbell.
Vikings 27, Lions 20.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com.