Lions vs. Vikings 5 ​​preview: Can Detroit take advantage of Minnesota’s ‘disappointing’ run defense?

Wow, it’s Week 3 already. The Detroit Lions are coming off a nice first win of the season and the playing field in the NFC North is completely level with each team sitting at 1-1. The Lions have a chance to get out ahead of at least one division rival when they take on the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

The Vikings have been one of those teams that many feel could have a chance to overtake the Green Bay Packers this season and win the north. They already overtook them once this season in Week 1. We’ll see what they can do in the long run. They’re coming off a Week 2 drubbing from the Philadelphia Eagles, a team the Lions scored 35 points on. There’s some reason for some confidence that the Lions could win this game.

We talked to Christopher Gates from The Daily Norsemen to get a better read on the Vikings and see if Vikings are for real. Here’s what he had to say:

The Vikings are 1-1 after two weeks. What has stood out the most about the Vikings at that time?

“After the first two weeks of this season, what’s stood out the most about the Vikings has been the shift in offensive philosophy, which is something we expected in the transition from Mike Zimmer to Kevin O’Connell. The Vikings have become much more aggressive in the passing game under O’Connell and have had a much smaller reliance on the ground game to this point. The team is utilizing a lot more “11” personnel under O’Connell than they did during the Zimmer era, and that’s allowed them to get a lot of their best players on the field more frequently. The results have been mixed so far, with the offense looking very good against Green Bay in the opener before having its struggles in Philadelphia on Monday night, but I think that as the team spends more time in this offense the better and more consistent they’ I’ll be going forward.”

What are their strengths?

“Their strength to this point has been their unpredictability. Again, they’re using much different personnel groupings that teams are accustomed to seeing them use from the Zimmer era, and that has prevented teams from focusing too much on Dalvin Cook (again, with mixed results) and opened things up quite a bit for the passing game. We’ve seen what it’s done for Justin Jefferson over the first two weeks of the season, and now the key is going to be getting players like Adam Thielen, KJ Osborn, and Irv Smith Jr. more integrated into things (although Smith actually holding onto the football when it hits him in the hands would be a tremendous help). With Kevin O’Connell coming from the Sean McVay school, I think he’s going to continue coming up with new and innovative ways to keep the offense fresh and unpredictable throughout the season.”

What are their weaknesses?

“The biggest weakness, by far, has been the run defense, and that’s really disappointing. Both Green Bay and Philadelphia basically had their way on the ground against the Vikings’ defense, with Green Bay averaging over six yards/carry in the opener and Philadelphia using Jalen Hurts in addition to their running backs to great effect in Week 2. It’s disappointing because the Vikings have spent a lot of money over the past couple of seasons to bring in players that are supposed to prevent that sort of thing like Harrison Phillips, Dalvin Tomlinson, Jordan Hicks, and so forth. I don’t know if it’s part of the transition to a 3-4 defense under Ed Donatell that’s causing a lot of the issues or if teams are just blowing the Vikings’ defense away up front, but the run defense has been a big disappointment to this point and something that the Vikings need to get figured out in a hurry.”

At this moment, the Vikings are a 6-point favorite. Are you taking that bet?

“At this point, absolutely not. I think the Vikings are still a pretty talented football team and I still think they’re going to find a way to win this game on Sunday, but at this point they shouldn’t be a touchdown favorite over anybody, let alone a team that’s scoring points at a ridiculous clip like the Lions currently are. I think the Vikings are going to pick themselves up off the mat after the pasting they took on Monday Night Football a couple of days ago, but I don’t think I’d give that many points until they can show a little more consistency on both sides of the ball.”

Who wins this thing?

The Lions are one of the hottest offenses in the NFL and they’re going to get their points in this one. But I think that the Vikings are going to be able to take advantage of what’s been a pretty bad Detroit defense through the first two games. Justin Jefferson will bounce back from his rough performance in Philadelphia and put up another big game, and the Vikings’ complementary parts around him are going to finally start getting more involved here, too. Like both of the games between these teams last season, I think it’s going to be a close one, but I’ll take the Vikings to get a 30-27 win and put themselves firmly on top of the NFC North after three weeks.”

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