Vikings-Lions Preview: 5 Reasons Why the Vikings Should Be Wary

Vikings-Lions Preview
Dec 4, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) celebrates a sack with linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (44) against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift (32) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jonathan Bullard (93) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Vikings-Lions Sunday #2 this week. The 10-2 Minnesota Vikings will take on the 5-7 Detroit Lions this Sunday at Ford Field in downtown Detroit. It will be tempting for the Vikings—and even more so for us fans—to look forward to this as an opportunity to pad our stats with an easy W and take one step closer to home field advantage in the early rounds of the post-season.

After all, the Lions are perennial also-rans who haven’t won more than 6 games in a season since 2017, without a playoff appearance since 2016. They haven’t won a central division title since the days of Barry Sanders in 1992. What could there be to worry about?

Actually, a lot. The Vikings appeared to take the Lions lightly back in Week 4, and narrowly escaped with a 28-24 home victory that was in question right to the end, with the Vikings taking their only lead with 45 seconds left in the game and narrowly averting a Lions comeback of their own. And now, in Week 14, there are plenty of reasons to think this Lions squad is even more dangerous than they were ten weeks ago. Here are 5:

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1. Detroit’s Trajectory Is Up

Oct 3, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) passes in the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot that happens in a full season. Not every 5-7 record reveals the same story when looked at more closely. In the Lions’ case, the story comes into focus quickly when looking at things chronologically. Detroit’s season began disastrously, with just one win against six losses to open the season.

Since then, they’ve gone 4-1, with the one loss coming at the hands of Buffalo–one of the AFC’s best–with only a field goal separating the two teams in a 28-25 Bills victory.

2. They Play the Good Teams Hard

Oct 9, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) runs with the ball against Detroit Lions cornerback Mike Hughes (23) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Their schedule, and resulting 1-6 start was brutal in that five of those opponents are current playoff seeds (Eagles, Vikings, Seahawks, Cowboys, Dolphins), with the other two (Commanders, Patriots) being the first “bubble” teams in each conference.

These were all quality opponents. Including the more recent Bills game, Detroit has faced nine playoff-worthy foes this season, and though their record is 2-7 against them, only once did they lose by more than four points. These Lions are playing the good teams hard and are 3-0 against the also-rans.

3. Amon-Ra St. Brown Has Arrived

Questions Answered: Lions Good or Not, DET-MIN Prediction, Evans on IR
Nov 20, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) gains yards after the catch during the first half as New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports.

After a rookie season with 90 catches for 900+ yards, the 23-year-old receiver out of USC has put up Pro-Bowl-worthy numbers in 2022. Amon-Ra St. Brown has already snared 76 balls for 830 yards, on pace for nearly 1,300 for the season.

He has topped 100 yards receiving in three of the last four games including three for touchdowns. Pro Football Focus named him to their third-quarter NFL All-Pro Second Team. The man’s got skills, and more importantly, so do his teammates.

The Lions as a team rank sixth in the NFL in points scored, seventh in total yards of offense. The team can clearly do damage when the ball is in their hands. Defensively, the Lions are dead last in both points and yards allowed—with the Vikings ranked 22nd and 31st in those two categories—so look for a lot of action on the field. I’m not a professional gambler, but here’s one game I’d bet the “Over” on—which, as of this writing, sits at 51.5.

4. Home Field still Means Something

Sep 18, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions safety Will Harris (25) and linebacker Alex Anzalone. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

There’s a reason the home team has a .550+ winning percentage in NFL games. There’s an advantage there, one that the Vikings enjoyed in escaping US Bank Stadium with that win earlier in the year. Looking at the Vikings-Lions rivalry since 2010, these two teams have split their last 12 games, 6-6. But the Vikings went 4-0 from 2017-2020, when the Lions were at their lowest depths. Really, those low depths included last season, when Detroit went 3-13, but one of those wins was against our Vikings at Ford Field.

5. These Lions Are Growing Up

Dec 4, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (44) and cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu (26) run up the tunnel after the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

This Lions squad is the third youngest in the NFL, with an average age of 25 years, 9 months. And their coaching staff is the fourth youngest, with an average age of 39.8. (Fun fact: the #1 youngest coaching staff? The New England Patriots, despite having the oldest head coach in Bill Belichick).

But Dan Campbell and company are clearly moving their squad in the right direction. They have built a strong foundation, and they have been involved in a number of close games this season, especially when it comes to Vikings-Lions games. The average margin of victory in the Campbell era (2021-22) currently sits at 2.7.

The Vikings, of course, are the reigning Kings of Close Contests, but 2.7? That’s a coin flip. It’s a field goal. It’s the oddsmaker’s home field advantage. It’s entirely too close for anybody to take this game lightly.