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Previewing the Lions' next opponent: Can the Minnesota Vikings compete for the NFC North crown?

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The Detroit Lions face off against the Minnesota Vikings for the second time this year. But this week, we know a lot more about this Vikings team.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions are looking to build on last week's success, but they'll have to go through another divisional opponent to get their second consecutive win. This week's opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, are hoping to keep pace with the Packers, having won three of their past four games. The Vikings convincingly beat the Lions in Week 2, but both teams have changed considerably since then. Let's take a closer look at this Minnesota team.

Minnesota Vikings (3-2)

Schedule so far:

Week 1 - at 49ers - lost, 3-20

Week 2 - vs. Lions - won, 26-16

Week 3 - vs. Chargers - won, 31-14

Week 4 - at Broncos - lost, 20-23

Week 6 - vs. Chiefs - won, 16-10

Reasons for optimism:

Though the Vikings handled the Lions in the matchup five weeks ago, that was in Minnesota. The Vikings have played two games on the road this season and lost them both.

Additionally, the Vikings haven't found their footing offensively. Although Adrian Peterson is having a respectable year, it hasn't quite been as explosive as Vikings fans were hoping. Last week, Peterson only managed 2.3 a carry and he is only averaging a modest 4.3 a carry on the year. Those aren't bad numbers, but they aren't Purple Jesus numbers, either. According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings have the 29th ranked offense and only the 19th-best running game. That is well below expectations for a team perceived as a legitimate running offense.

Defensively, the Vikings aren't quite as good as advertised, either. Football Outsiders rank them 19th, with the 26th ranked run defense. That could be good news, if the Lions' offensive breakout last week was a sign of true improvement and not just an indicator of how bad the Chicago Bears are.

Reasons for pessimism:

The Vikings pretty much dominated the first game between the two from beginning to end. Matthew Stafford was pummeled to the point where the team thought he may have broken ribs. Peterson ran for 134 yards and added another 58 receiving. And since that game, the Lions' run defense has gotten worse, with the loss of Tyrunn Walker and the lingering injuries to Haloti Ngata and DeAndre Levy.

Storyline to watch:

In the Week 2 matchup, the Lions (specifically, Golden Tate) accused the Vikings of several dirty hits, many on Stafford himself. Peterson added fuel to that fire this week by telling Tate to "suck it up." Look for the Lions to come out hitting early, and the referees to be on top of anything they deem over the line.