The Lions’ 2018 first round pick has fared quite well in his first NFL action. Though primarily a center at Arkansas, Ragnow has transitioned seamlessly to left guard, doing wonders to both open holes for Kerryon Johnson and keep Matthew Stafford upright. He will likely get his fair share of one-on-one matchups with Richardson on Sunday. Richardson’s numbers are not eye-popping, just one sack to his name this year. However, his ability to control the line has been undeniable, as has the pressure he has gotten on the interior. The Lions owe their periods of success to their controlling of the line of scrimmage, so this veteran-on-rookie matchup will be a major focus of both team’s gameplans.
Eric Kendricks vs. Kerryon Johnson
The matchup of Kendricks against opposing running backs will be a key matchup until he proves he can stop them consistently. While Johnson is not quite as explosive as Todd Gurley or Alvin Kamara, he has accounted for 624 scrimmage yards this season with 6.4 yards per touch. Kendricks will once again be without Anthony Barr, so coverage on Johnson, as well as tackling in the box, is going to fall primarily on his shoulders.
Marshon Lattimore and the Saints almost kept Thielen from his 100 yards, but he was able to just nick that mark in the fourth quarter. Still, the Saints did something no team has really been able to do this year: made Thielen look human. Thielen gets Darius Slay this week, who remains one of the best cover corners in the game. As has been the case in most Vikings games, the Lions’ top corner will probably get his shots at Stefon Diggs, as well (assuming Diggs plays). But Thielen is the chain-mover, the primary engine that runs the Vikings ship. If Slay can dampen Thielen’s production just a hair, we saw last week that it can be enough to tip the scales away from Minnesota.
While Detroit comes in completely healthy, the Vikings are dealing with a considerable amount of uncertainty with regards to the injury report. Barr, Tom Compton and Roc Thomas have been ruled out, meaning Eric Wilson and Danny Isidora will likely start for the second week in a row. Additionally, five players are listed as questionable: Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Riley Reiff, Xavier Rhodes and Andrew Sendejo. Cook, Reiff, Rhodes and Sendejo missed last week, while Diggs’ rib injury is a more recent development. He did not practice Wednesday or Thurday, but returned on a limited basis Friday. Diggs has asserted that he plans to play Sunday. No word on what direction the other questionables are leaning.
Madison Parkhill: Sitting at 4-3-1 at the midway point of the season, the Vikings have a critical game this week at home vs the Lions. A win going into the bye week would reestablish them as contenders, while a loss would potentially derail hopes of another NFC North title. The Lions have been an inconsistent team throughout the season, including their team management. They traded for elite run-stopping defensive tackle Damon Harrison but sent away stalwart slot wide receiver Golden Tate. Despite those transactions, the Lions team identity remains the same. Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, and rookie running back Kerryon Johnson combine for an explosive offense, while holes at all levels of the defense make it inconsistent at best. Offensively, I expect A. The Vikings should pull out the win.
Final Score: Minnesota 30, Detroit 23
Sam Smith: The Lions are an awfully week-to-week team that can look elite or bottom of the barrel at any time. With Sunday’s game taking place in Minnesota and the Lions just trading away their top receiver, I am leaning heavily towards the Vikings to hold serve. That said, no team has had the Vikings’ number the last few years like Detroit. They handed Minnesota a loss at U.S. Bank Stadium last year in an ugly defensive battle. I expect a bit more scoring and a Vikings win, but the final score will be a little close for Minnesota fans’ comforts.
Final Score: Minnesota 27, Detroit 24
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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