The Minnesota Vikings head back home to US Bank Stadium for another divisional game, this time against the insurgent Detroit Lions. So far, this Vikings season has been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde scenario.
There are the good Vikings, who rolled right over the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. Their offense moved the ball down the field with the greatest of ease, and the defense won in the trenches and frustrated reigning back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers with pressure generated by the front four and good coverage in the secondary.
And there there are the bad Vikings, a team whose defense could not stop Jalen Hurts from completing his first 10 pass attempts, and whose offense turned the ball over three times in the red zone in a game where they were desperate for any momentum.
The question is, which Vikings team shows up at noon on Sunday?
Whoever they are, they need to watch out for these three things the Detroit Lions do well.
Run the Ball
In Dan Campbell‘s first season as head coach, there were questions about his persona and how it would affect his team. It looks like they’ve taken on Campbell’s tough, blue-collar temperament in how they run the ball and commit to a balanced offense.
So far this season, the Lions are third in rushing yards per game with 186 on average. What makes this even more impressive is that they run at an average of 7.2 yards per carry, the highest yards per carry in the entire league.
Although it’s only been two weeks, this trend should be worrying to a Vikings defense that has had 5.77 guys in the tackle box on base downs under new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. To put this into context, Minnesota is the only team with less than six men on average in the tackle box.
Lions third-year running back D’Andre Swift has been incredible the first two weeks of this season. He’s averaging 10 yards per carry on 20 carries to start the season. Swift is nursing an ankle injury, but he figures to play through it and make life tough for Minnesota’s run defense.
Get the Ball in Amon-Ra St. Brown‘s hands
The Vikings are well acquainted with Detroit’s budding star receiver. St. Brown caught the touchdown in Week 13 of last season that won the Lions their first game of the season. That loss may have been the final nail in the coffin of Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman’s tenures in Minnesota.
Since then, St. Brown has gone on to be a star in his own right as he currently has a streak of eight games with eight or more receptions. You would think that, with his growing reputation, a secondary would look to erase him from the game, but this has not been the case so far. Even Philadelphia’s secondary, which was able to shut down Justin Jefferson on Monday night, wasn’t able to neutralize St. Brown.
With Harrison Smith out this week, the corners will have a much harder job with St. Brown. Instead of Smith’s protection behind them, they will either have the inexperienced Lewis Cine or Josh Metellus.
Protect the Edges
The Lions have invested a lot in their offensive line, specifically the offensive tackles. With edge rushers getting increasingly better at their craft, the offensive tackle’s job becomes harder than ever. The Vikings will face off against two very good tackles in Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell.
Decker is one of the most underrated left tackles in the NFL. After a rough Week 1 matchup against the Eagles, he was able to bounce back with a solid performance against the Washington Commanders. Across from him is Penei Sewell, who draft experts touted as one of the best offensive tackle prospects a year ago.