Currently, the Detroit Lions are in the thick of the NFC North race being just a game out of first place in the division. The Lions currently sit at 3-4 after last week’s 28-14 loss to the Seahawks, while their divisional foes, the Minnesota Vikings are currently 4-3-1 after last week’s 30-20 loss to the Saints.
The Lions traded wide receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles last week and while some are perceiving the move as the Lions throwing in the towel early, many still believe the Lions are on the right track to finding success this season. With the trade, the Lions should see a lot more of both T.J. Jones and Brandon Powell.
Offensively, quarterback Matthew Stafford will be a key player for the Lions. Stafford has been a consistent piece of the Lions offense. He’s thrown for 1,912 yards and 14 touchdowns so far this season. With a more effective Lions offense due to a newly-found running game, Stafford has found himself with more time in the pocket to make big plays throughout the game.
Defensively, linebacker Devon Kennard will make an impact for Detroit. Kennard was signed as a free agent from the New York Giants this past offseason and his immediate impact has not gone unnoticed. Kennard has proven to be a key member of the defense alongside Jarrad David this season with 22 tackles and five sacks through seven games.
This week’s dark horse is a wide receiver, Kenny Golladay. With the trade of Golden Tate to Philadelphia, Golladay should see an increase in targets moving forward. Golladay has 477 yards and three touchdowns this season but has become a valuable target for Matthew Stafford. Golladay is a big-bodied receiver that can make tough catches look easy.
Offensively, wide receiver Adam Theilen will be a key player for the Vikings. Theilen has recorded eight straight 100-yard receiving games, tying the record of former Lions WR Calvin Johnson. Theilen currently leads the league in receiving yards with 925. His athletic ability has made him a factor not only in the short-passing game but also in deep ball situations.
Defensively, Linval Joseph will make an impact for Minnesota. Against New Orleans, in Week 8, Joseph recorded six total tackles and two tackles for a loss. Joseph provides a nice unique element on the defensive line, showcasing his ability to play aggressively against both the pass and rush. His fast hands and quick feet off the snap will be a problem for Detroit’s offensive line. Joseph will have his hands full against running back Kerryon Johnson, who has proven to be extremely agile and elusive even as a young running back in the league.
This week’s dark horse for Minnesota is quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins has only thrown four interceptions so far this season. He has proven himself to be one of the best in a tough NFC North division. Throwing for 2,521 yards and 16 touchdowns has helped power the Vikings to a 4-3-1 record. Although Cousins has played smart through eight weeks, several of his passes have been knocked down at the line. With Da’Shawn Hand and Damon Harrison both dominating up front on the defensive line for Detroit, Cousins will have to throw higher to avoided passes being knocked down.