Vikings looking to prevent Lions from winning NFC North Sunday

Vikings looking to dethrone Lions in NFC North as season comes to close in three weeks

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson and safety Harrison Smith spoke after Thursday’s practice to discuss receiver Jordan Addison’s growth over the season, running back Ty Chandler stepping up in Alexander Mattison’s absence, and taking on the Lions on Christmas Eve.

If Detroit wins Sunday, they will be NFC North champs.

***Click the video box above to hear from Justin Jefferson and Harrison Smith from Thurs. Dec. 21 ***

Below is a game preview from the Associated Press:

DETROIT (10-4) at MINNESOTA (7-7)

Sunday, 12 p.m.

OPENING LINE: Lions by 3, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Lions 9-5; Vikings 7-5-2.

SERIES RECORD: Vikings lead 80-41-2.

LAST MEETING: Lions beat Vikings 34-23 in Detroit on Dec. 11, 2022.

LAST WEEK: Lions beat Broncos 42-17; Vikings lost to Bengals 27-24 in OT.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Lions minus-5; Vikings minus-6.

LIONS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Sam LaPorta had a season-high three TD catches last week. The rookie from Iowa and WR Odell Beckham Jr. are the only players in history with at least 70 catches, 750 receiving yards and nine TDs through the first 14 games of their career. LaPorta’s TD total trails just two rookie TEs in NFL history: Mike Ditka (12, 1961) and Rob Gronkowski (10, 2010). His 71 receptions trail only Keith Jackson (81, 1981) and Jeremy Shockey (74, 2002) among rookies at the position.

VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE T.J. Hockenson needs nine receptions to reach 100 and 98 yards to reach 1,000. He has yet to hit those milestones in a season in his career. The 2019 first-round draft pick by the Lions, who was traded to the Vikings midway through last season, would also set the franchise tight end record held by Joe Senser (1981) with 103 more receiving yards. Hockenson had six catches for 77 yards last season in his first matchup against the Lions.

KEY MATCHUP: Lions QB Jared Goff vs. Vikings blitz. Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores, who ran the Patriots defense in Super Bowl 53 five years ago in a dominant performance against Goff and the Rams, calls the most blitzes in the league. The Vikings have sent five or more rushers at opponents on 49.6% of pass plays, according to Sportradar data. Goff has thrown five interceptions when blitzed this season, per Sportradar, the second most in the NFL.

KEY INJURIES: Lions CB Jerry Jacobs (hamstring) was held out of practice Wednesday after he was hurt in last week’s game along with LB Derrick Barnes (shoulder) and backup TE Brock Wright (groin). … Vikings RB Alexander Mattison (ankle) and RT Brian O’Neill (ankle) missed the previous game, along with backup WR Jalen Nailor (concussion). None of them practiced Wednesday. CB Byron Murphy (knee) and DT Harrison Phillips (back) were also held out.

SERIES NOTES: The Vikings have won five straight home games against the Lions, last losing at U.S. Bank Stadium on Oct. 1, 2017. … The two teams play again in Detroit on the final weekend of the regular season. This is the latest first matchup of the season in the history of the series. They played on Nov. 19 and Dec. 10 in 1961, the inaugural season for the Vikings. In the strike-shortened season in 1982, they played once on Dec. 19. … The Lions have seven season sweeps in the series: 2016, 2014, 2011, 1997, 1991, 1962 and 1961. They made the playoffs each year except 1962 and 1961, when they finished second both seasons in the NFL’s Western Conference. Only the winner of each conference played for the league championship in those years.

STATS AND STUFF: The Lions clinch the NFC North with a win. Their most recent division title was in 1993. They can also secure a spot in the playoffs this weekend with a loss by either the Rams or the Seahawks. … The Lions, who haven’t lost consecutive games since a five-game skid through Oct. 30, 2022, have 19 wins in two seasons to match the franchise mark for victories in a two-year span. … Jared Goff threw 5 TDs last week, matching a Lions and personal record. Goff ranks third in the NFL with 3,727 yards passing and 26 TDs and is sixth in passer rating. He has the most passing yards in the league since the start of 2017. … The Lions are the NFL’s only team with four players with at least seven TDs: LaPorta, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, RB David Montgomery and RB Jahmyr Gibbs. … The Lions have two players (Montgomery and Gibbs) with multiple 100-yard rushing games for the first time since 1936. … Lions DE Aidan Hutchinson is tied with Micah Parsons (Cowboys) for the league lead with 66 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. … LB Alex Anzalone has made at least five tackles in 30 straight games, tied for the second-longest active streak in the NFL. … The Vikings can still take the NFC North title by winning their final three games and having the Lions lose to the Cowboys on Dec. 30. … Nick Mullens will make his second start at QB for the Vikings. He’s the fourth different starter they’ve had this season, a franchise record. … Ty Chandler had a career-high 132 rushing yards for the Vikings last week against the Bengals on 23 carries. … Vikings WR Jordan Addison needs 176 receiving yards and one TD over the final three games to become the 11th rookie in league history with 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. … Vikings WR Justin Jefferson needs six more receiving yards to set the all-time league record for most yards in a player’s first four seasons, currently held by Michael Thomas (5,512). … The Vikings’ Danielle Hunter is second in the NFL with 15½ sacks, a career high. … The Vikings have eight games with at least one forced fumble and one interception, tied with the Jaguars for the most in the NFL.

FANTASY TIP: Mullens is a viable option for managers seeking an emergency fill-in with the rash of QB injuries across the league. He passed for 303 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions last week against the Bengals. The Lions have allowed 11 passing touchdowns with just two interceptions over their past six games with an average of 232 passing yards allowed.