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Lions Opponent Profile: Vikings And Lions Battle On Thanksgiving For Top Spot In NFC North

By Michael Ferro

The Detroit Lions have done it again. On Sunday, Matthew Stafford and his teammates mounted another fourth quarter comeback and stole the lead from Jacksonville, winning their match up with the Jaguars 26-19. It wasn't always pretty, and it did raise a few questions concerning the Lions' offense, but it does keep Detroit at the top of the NFC North... for now.

Knocking on the door now is the team that is no more than a hair away from the Lions' first place spot: The Minnesota Vikings. After embarrassing the Vikings on their home turf just a few short weeks ago (thanks to one of those stellar last-second comeback wins), you can bet Minnesota is just itching for a chance to crush Detroit at Ford Field on Thanksgiving.

Vikings Season Record: 6-4

When it comes to Minnesota's record this season, Detroit fans are seeing double. Both the Vikings and Lions are 6-4 overall and 4-1 at home, though Detroit has won their last two, while Minnesota is coming off of one win. While their season records are almost identical, Detroit owns the tiebreaker, since they took down Minnesota in Minneapolis earlier this year, so Detroit holds the top spot in the division.

Whoever wins this game on Thanksgiving, though, will be in first place in the NFC North and in a prime playoff position to boot.

Vikings on Offense

Many of the same dangers that Lions fans had to look out for in their first match up this season with the Vikings still apply this time around. While Minnesota QB Sam Bradford wasn't at the top of his game during his team's battle with Arizona, he did end up 20-28 passing with 160 yards and a touchdown, which was enough to get the job done. Bradford also proved that he's quite comfortable hitting any number of his talented receivers. This past Sunday, he hit Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph, all multiple times.

Minnesota is still struggling in their running game, only managing a scant 72 yards on the ground as a team last game, but unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions have fared no better as of late.

Vikings on Defense

At one point the second-best defense in the league, Minnesota has struggled a little since their loss against Detroit. Still, the Vikings are dominant on defense at key times and returned to form on Sunday, earning four sacks against Arizona. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes nabbed two interceptions and took one back 100 yards for a touchdown.

Minnesota's special teams were also on point during the game. Cordarrelle Patterson returned the second-half kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown and with that, the Vikings became the first team since 1962 to have a 100-yard interception return and a 100-plus yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the same game.

Players to Watch: WR Adam Thielen and CB Xavier Rhodes

While Minnesota's offense does just enough to win games, it's their defense that keeps opposing offensive coordinators up at night. Xavier Rhodes' two interceptions is scary enough, but add in the fact that Minnesota is a constant threat with sacks and you might have a pressured Matthew Stafford making uncharacteristic mistakes.

When Vikings QB Sam Bradford is making plays lately, it has been to his clutch wide receiver Adam Thielen, who had a touchdown and five catches in his last outing. Detroit will need to provide decent coverage for the wide arsenal Bradford utilizes in the passing game.


The annual Thanksgiving game is no joke to die-hard Detroit fans; it's a holiday and tradition all in itself. This year, Detroit is No. 1 in the NFC North and has a chance to seal that spot—perhaps until the playoffs—with a win over Minnesota. At the same time, the Vikings are surging and their defense craves revenge. In all honesty, either team stands a decent chance at winning, but perhaps a home edge and the national spotlight will bump it in Detroit's favor.

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