The Detroit Lions (6-4) will take on the Minnesota Vikings (8-2) in Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day matchup at Ford Field. Detroit will look to stretch their Thanksgiving Day winning streak to five games.
Last Thanksgiving, the Lions took on the Vikings at Ford Field as well, snatching away a 16-13 win on a last-second Matt Prater field goal. This season, the Lions also beat the Vikings 14-7 back in Week 4.
The two teams have a history of low-scoring games. Their last two matchups have been dominated by defense; in two games, only 50 points have been scored.
This time around should be a low-scoring game as well. The Vikings defense is scary good, allowing the fourth-fewest points per game this season with just over 17. The defense is so good, in fact, that it held the second-highest scoring team in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams, to just seven points last week.
While the Vikings’ defense is legit, so is Detroit’s offense. They’ve averaged 27.1 points per game, good for fifth-best in the NFL. The Lions’ offense has also played three of the top five defenses in the NFL this season, so their offense is better than the numbers show.
The Vikings are red-hot right now, having won six games in a row coming into Week 12. However, their last loss came when the Lions beat them in Minnesota. Now that the Lions have home-field advantage, Detroit should have the upper hand.
Despite the Week 4 win, quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled all game long, completing 61 percent of his passes and failing to throw a touchdown. Stafford has been better as of late, throwing seven touchdowns over his last three games.
The Lions defense hasn’t been playing the best football as of late. They allowed the Cleveland Browns to put up 24 points and last week, they escaped a scare against the Chicago Bears, narrowly leaving Soldier Field with a 27-24 win.
Detroit’s shaky play against struggling teams raises concern, especially against a team like Minnesota, who will pose much more of a challenge than the Browns or Bears.
With the Lions sitting two games behind the Vikings in the NFC North, this game has major playoff implications. The Lions have worked their way into the playoff picture, but if the season were to end today, they would be on the outside looking in. The only thing separating them is their loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, giving the Falcons the tiebreaker for the final spot.
With a Lions win, the gap between Detroit and Minnesota will drop down to one game. If the Lions want to have a shot at winning their division, something they haven’t done since 1993, winning on Thursday will be a crucial step. Expect a gritty, low-scoring game on Thanksgiving.
Keys to the Game
- Take advantage of scoring opportunities. The Vikings defense is the fourth-best in the NFL. They won’t let the Lions in the red zone very often, but when they do, the Lions’ offense really cannot afford to waste any chances. Make safe plays and don’t be afraid to settle for a field goal.
- Stop the Vikings run game. Between Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, the Vikings have themselves a lethal combo. Murray is coming off a game where he reached the end zone twice. Stopping the duo would really help limit the Vikings offense and put the game in Case Keenum’s hand.
- Get Matt Prater in field goal range. This will most likely be a low-scoring game, and a field goal could be the difference maker. Get Prater within 50 yards and he is almost sure to tack on three points.
Noah Goad: Case Keenum and the Vikings have been hot lately. Expect them to take that momentum into this game. With the Lions’ defensive struggles against the Bears and Browns over the past two weeks, this poses a big problem. If Detroit’s defense doesn’t step it up, it will surely spell trouble for them.
Vikings 17, Lions 14
Michael Downes: A big name to watch in this one is defensive end Anthony Zettel. He is the Lions’ main pass rusher with Ansah out. He and Detroit’s front seven need to get to Keenum. If they can get him uncomfortable, Detroit will thrive. Keeping Stafford upright is the No. 1 concern for Detroit in this game. If the O-line can give him some time, which is a tough task against Minnesota’s front seven, he will dissect this defense. Detroit pulls off the upset.
Lions 17, Vikings 13
John Dolan: No game on the Lions’ entire 16-game schedule is more important than this one. A win here would put the Lions one game behind Minnesota and give them the tiebreaker advantage, but a loss would all but end the Lions’ hopes of winning the division. There may be no hotter team in football than Minnesota after winning six straight, but its last loss came at home against the Lions. I think Detroit comes with a little extra edge in Thanksgiving games and the home crowd will propel them to a close victory.
Lions 24, Vikings 21