Mon, 06 Feb 2023

Vikings looking to lock up NFC North in Detroit

Field Level Media
08 Dec 2022, 08:55 GMT+10

The Minnesota Vikings can wrap up the NFC North division championship with four games to spare with a victory against the surging Lions in Detroit on Sunday.

The Vikings (10-2) have already clinched a tie for the division title with the Lions (5-7), who sit in second place and are winners of fourof their last five games.

"It would be everything to us," quarterback Kirk Cousins said of clinching Minnesota's first division championship since 2017. "It's a great opportunity, and you have to go earn it. You don't want to back into anything."

The Vikings have been the masters of the single-digit victory, with their last nine wins by eight points or less.

"They find ways to win, that's what they do," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "And those are the hard teams because they've done it against multiple opponents, different ways. Special teams, offense, defense, they're finding ways to win."

In their latest cliffhanger, the Vikings pulled out a 27-22 victory over the New York Jets. Minnesota staged a goal-line stand in the late going but still couldn't exhale until Camryn Bynum's interception at the 1-yard line with 10 seconds remaining.

Surprisingly, this will be the first time Minnesota has gone on the road this season to face a division opponent.

"Conference games, division games -- these players know each other well," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said. "They have competed against each other and regardless of the outcome of any previous game, I really don't think any of that matters."

In their first meeting against the Lions in Minneapolis on Sept. 25, K.J. Osborn caught a go-ahead, 28-yard touchdown pass from Cousins with 45 seconds remaining. The Vikings trailed 24-14 entering the fourth quarter.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson scored a receiving touchdown for the Lions that day, but he's now wearing a Vikings uniform after being moved at the trade deadline. Hockenson has made 30 receptions in five games since joining Minnesota.

"We've got to keep using his skill set and putting it to work," Cousins said.

The Lions' secondary has an even bigger challenge trying to contain Justin Jefferson, who has caught 88 passes for 1,277 yards and six touchdowns.

"We've got to have answers for him," Campbell said. "You've got to know where he is at all times because he'll hurt you."

The Lions have a long-standing reputation of hurting themselves with turnovers, penalties and late-game lapses. They were 1-6 after losing four games by four points or less. They've played much cleaner of late, highlighted by their 40-14 thumping of Jacksonville last weekend.

Detroit didn't have a turnover, committed just one penalty and scored touchdowns on all four trips to the red zone.

"We've done things a certain way now for a while and have gained confidence from it," Campbell said. "It's all about stay the course. No shortcuts, no detours, just stay the course with what we've been doing."

Jared Goff passed for 340 yards and two scores against the Jaguars. He's thrown eight touchdown passes, compared to one interception, over the past six games.

Top receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has been just as dangerous as Jefferson over the last four games, hauling in 37 receptions for 431 yards and three TDs.

Minnesota won't have cornerback Akayleb Evans, who has suffered two concussions in the past four weeks.

Offensive linemen Frank Ragnow (foot) and Taylor Decker (elbow) were among the Lions who didn't practice Wednesday.

--Field Level Media

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