Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings: Inside the numbers


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The Detroit Lions continued their hot streak and have looked like one of the best teams in the NFL. This week, they will try to keep the good vibes against the division-leading, Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have had a great season this year, going 10-2 with their only losses to the Eagles and the Cowboys. However, most of their wins have had razor-thin margins showing they are vulnerable. Let's look inside the numbers to see how the Lions match up.

Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings

Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings: offense/defense overview

Once the Vikings get in the red zone, they will have a big advantage. The Lions have struggled to stop teams in the red zone. They currently give up touchdowns on two-thirds of red zone drives which is the 2nd worst in the league. The Vikings are better at scoring once they are there. With weapons like Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, they score TDs on 61.36% of drives good which is top 10 in the league.

The Vikings are also really good at taking care of the ball. They only average one turnover a game, good for 5th in the league. The Vikings don't have the most prolific offense, but they score in the red zone and take care of the ball. The Lions need to limit them inside the 20s to get the win.

Lions' 11th (DVOA) pass offense vs Vikings' 24th pass defense

The Vikings have been weak this year against the pass as their DVOA is 24th in the league, and their “traditional” stats paint an even worse picture. The Vikings rank last in the league in passing yards given up per game (283), and last in yards per attempt (7.6). Patrick Peterson is having a revival year as PFF‘s 5th-graded corner, but the rest of the secondary does not have any standouts. In the past, the Vikings have relied on a fearsome pass rush but are middle of the pack this year with 2.5 sacks a game. The Lions will have to worry about Danielle Hunter who loves playing Detroit.

This matchup definitely favors the Lions. The Lions' passing attack is one of the better in the league and looked really good with their top four options healthy for the first team. Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, and Josh Reynolds showed they can carry the load, and rookie Jameson Williams forces defenses to adjust every time he is on the field. This Lions' game plan should look similar to last week where they pass early and often to attack the weaker part of the defense.

Lions' 10th rush offense vs Vikings' 14th rush defense

The Vikings' rush defense looks middle of the pack in both traditional and DVOA. With their 14th DVOA ranking, the Vikings also rank 17th in yards per carry and 16th in yards per game. Their linebackers, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks are more run stuffers who grade out well against the rush.

The Lions' rush attack tapered off after a torrid start to the season. They still have been above average, but they have not had the explosive plays in the ground game they did earlier in the season. Luckily for them, last week, D'Andre Swift looked healthy for the first time in a few weeks. He looked much more decisive and aggressive hitting the hole and churning out yards. This matchup is close to a push, but an explosive Swift can completely change that.

This matchup should favor the Lions' offense. They have a large advantage in the passing game that Ben Johnson should be able to exploit. With a healthy receiving corps, the Lions should rely on Goff to attack the Vikings' defense. While the Vikings' defense gives up a lot of yards, they are good at forcing turnovers. They are fourth in the league with 1.7 takeaways a game with 1 interception a game. If the Lions can take care of the ball, they should be able to move the ball into the red zone. Again, once they are there, the Lions have an advantage, being the best at scoring TDs in the red zone (73.91%), facing off against the 20th-ranked red zone defense. It all will come down to limiting turnovers to allow their offense to put up another big number.

Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings: defense/offense overview

Lions' Pass Defense (17th) vs Vikings' Pass Offense (19th)

Despite the Vikings' success, Kirk Cousins has not been lighting the world on fire. The Vikings put up the 10th most passing yards per game, but they are 27th in pass yards per attempt at only 6.6 yards per attempt. However, the Vikings do have a game-changer in Justin Jefferson. Jefferson has emerged as a bonafide top 5 receiver making several jaw-dropping plays. If he is not checked, he will change the game.

The Lions' pass defense has been a huge part of the improvement on the defensive side of the ball. In their win streak, they have looked much better. Jerry Jacob's return has given the Lions a reliable number 2 corner across from stud Jeff Okudah. They will need him to step up as in their first matchup Adam Theilen wreaked havoc. On the front, the Vikings do give up 2.5 sacks per game, so young pass rushers, Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston should have a chance to get to the passer. If the pass rushers can get home a few times, and Jacobs can slow down Theilin, the Lions should be able to win this close matchup in the passing game.

Lions' Rush Defense (25th) vs Vikings' Rush Offense (16th)

The Vikings will have an advantage running the ball with star Dalvin Cook. Cook is one of the best running backs in the league with the power and speed to run inside and outside. Already, Cook is almost at 1,000 yards on the season with a very solid 4.7 yards per attempt. Behind him, Alexander Mattison has less impressive numbers, but PFF grades him slightly ahead of Cook. With this group, the Lions will need to make sure they prevent Cook from hitting the big play.

Like the rest of the defense, the Lions' rush defense has improved over the five-week stretch. However, they still are at a disadvantage against the Vikings. The Lions give up the 2nd most yards per carry in the league and the 28th-most yards per game. Cook is more than capable of exposing the rush defense. Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez need to have a big game to force the Vikings into disadvantageous situations.

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