While the NFC North is all but wrapped up this holiday season for the Minnesota Vikings, they’ll still need to remain sharp down the stretch of the season. This Sunday, they’ll visit a Detroit Lions team that appears to be revitalized over the last few weeks. The Lions bombarded the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13 by a final score of 40-14. Minnesota also came away with a win last Sunday, beating the New York Jets 27-22.
The Vikings and Lions already played once earlier in the year, with Minnesota taking that game 28-24.
Let’s take a look at three keys to this divisional tilt.
It’s rare for NFL teams to make trades within their division, since franchises don’t want their direct competition to improve. That’s why NFL fans were surprised when the Lions decided to trade tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings before the deadline. Detroit had been struggling earlier in the year, but that move figured to assist Minnesota in their quest to be the class of the division for years to come.
So far, Hockenson has been a really good addition for the Vikings. He’s another legitimate weapon that can take pressure off the immensely talented Justin Jefferson, as he works the intermediate part of the field. Hockenson will return to Detroit for the first time since the trade took place, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Vikings tried to get their new tight end into the endzone against his former team.
Sprinkling In A New Toy
Detroit knew that they would have to wait a little while before their first round draft pick would be available to play for them. Former Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams tore his ACL at the end of the college football season, and has been recovering throughout the first few months of the NFL campaign.
Williams made his NFL debut last week against the Jaguars, suiting up for eight offensive snaps. He’s undoubtedly a big part of their future, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s utilized in his second professional game on Sunday. The Lions might opt to play it safe with Williams as he gets up to speed, or they might choose to deploy him a little bit more. It’ll be something to keep an eye on as the game unfolds.
Aggressive Detroit Playcalling
While some might look at each team’s record and think that their fates are essentially sealed, Detroit likely has other ideas. It’ll be an uphill climb for them to get back into the mix for an NFC playoff spot, but their momentum gives them a glimmer of hope. They can’t really afford to lose any more games, which is why Sunday’s matchup is much more important to them than it is to Minnesota.
Head coach Dan Campbell is not shy about giving his team the green light to go for it on fourth downs, and that aggressiveness might even be magnified on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if Detroit takes some chances on their side of the field this weekend.