Ravaged Lions take on rejuvenated Vikings in NFC North clash
Two teams at the bottom of the NFC North division will square off Sunday afternoon when the Minnesota Vikings host the battered Detroit Lions, who might have to play without their starting quarterback.
The Lions placed Matthew Stafford on the reserve/COVID-19 on Wednesday after the 32-year-old quarterback was determined to have had “high risk, close contact” with a non-team member.
Per protocols, Stafford must isolate for five days but can return as long as he tests negative and doesn’t present any symptoms. Chase Daniel is behind Stafford on the depth chart.
Further, the Lions had nine other starters who were limited or didn’t practice Wednesday.
Minnesota (2-5) sits in last place in the division but is feeling rejuvenated after posting a 28-22 win against the Green Bay Packers in Week 8. The score was tied at halftime before the Vikings pulled away with two touchdowns in the third quarter, and now they will look to build on that momentum.
To do so could require another standout performance from running back Dalvin Cook, who scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) and notched 226 yards from scrimmage a week ago.
“We’re going to have to ride this guy,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
Cook has 652 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards a carry. Fellow running back Alexander Mattison has 253 yards and a score.
The ground attack has alleviated pressure on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has a 91.9 passer rating with 1,635 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Look for Detroit (3-4) to make Cook the focal point of its defensive plan as the team tries to climb back to .500 on the season. Last week, the Lions were routed 41-21 by the Indianapolis Colts.
The defeat snapped a two-game win streak for Detroit, which is 12-26-1 under head coach Matt Patricia.
“It’s consistency, that’s all it is,” Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones said. “If we do it consistently, we can move the field and score on anybody. But we’ve shown the opposite as well, and the opposite is what’s hurting us. We just have to be who we know that we are.”
This is the first meeting of the season between the teams. The Vikings swept the season series in 2019.
Stafford has a 94.8 passer rating, but his turnovers have proved costly. He has 1,916 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions — including at least one interception in each of Detroit’s four losses.
Adrian Peterson is the Lions’ leading rusher with 321 yards. His two rushing touchdowns rank second on the team behind D’Andre Swift, who has four.
Detroit’s defense is led by defensive end Romeo Okwara with five sacks in seven games. Defensive end Trey Flowers is next with two sacks, and safety Duron Harmon leads the team with a pair of interceptions.
Flowers landed on injured reserve earlier this week and is expected to miss at least three games. The team did not disclose the DE’s injury, suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The most notable injury absence this week will be Lions wideout Kenny Golladay, who is dealing with a bad hip. Golladay is averaging 16.9 yards per catch this season and has 338 yards and two touchdowns.
Further, offensive linemen Taylor Decker (back) and Hal Vaitai (foot), S Tracy Walker (foot) and WR Jamal Agnew (ribs) didn’t practice Wednesday while TE T.J. Hockenson (toe), OL Joe Dahl (back), DT Danny Shelton (wrist), LB Christian Jones (knee), CB Desmond Trufant (hamstring) and CB Darryl Roberts (hip/groin) were all limited.
The Lions put linebacker Jarrad Davis on COVID reserve Tuesday.
The Vikings are led on defense by DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, who has 2 1/2 sacks. Yannick Ngakoue remains the statistical leader with five sacks, but he was traded to the Baltimore Ravens last month.
Linebacker Eric Wilson leads Minnesota with two interceptions, and safety Harrison Smith has one.
The Vikings have four defensive backs on the injury report. Holton Hill (foot), Mark Fields II (chest) and Cameron Dantzler (concussion) did not practice, and Harrison Hand (hamstring) was limited.
–Field Level Media