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Previewing the Minnesota Vikings: Can the Lions pull off the season sweep?

Will Detroit take a commanding lead in the NFC North this week?

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It was just two games ago that the Detroit Lions pulled off another improbable comeback to take down the Minnesota Vikings on their home turf. Just a week later, while sitting in the comfort of their own home, the Lions took the lead in the NFC North, a lead they have yet to relinquish.

Thursday, the Lions will try to complete the season sweep of the Vikings for a huge two-game lead in the division. Last year, it was the Vikings who swept the Lions, and oddly, in 2014, the Lions swept the Vikings.

Let’s take a look at the Vikings and see how they’ve changed over the past two weeks.

Minnesota Vikings (6-4)

Schedule so far:

Week 1 - at Titans - Won, 25-16

Week 2 - vs. Packers - Won, 17-14

Week 3 - at Panthers - Won, 22-10

Week 4 - vs. Giants - Won, 24-10

Week 5 - vs. Texans - Won, 31-13

Week 7 - at Eagles - Lost, 10-21

Week 8 - at Bears - Lost, 10-20

Week 9 - vs. Lions - Lost, 16-22 (OT)

Week 10 - at Washington - Lost, 20-26

Week 11 - vs. Cardinals - Won, 30-24

Reasons the Lions should be optimistic:

First and foremost, the Lions should be confident because they beat the Vikings on the road already. In fact, Detroit remains the only team to date to defeat the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. It wasn’t pretty, and it was anything but decisive, but the Lions know that they have it in them to defeat the Vikings.

Additionally, the Lions are much healthier this time around. The Lions were missing Darius Slay and Riley Reiff in their Week 9 matchup, both of whom are expected to play this week. Detroit could even be getting DeAndre Levy back this week, who could provide a huge boost to the defense.

The Vikings are somehow in even worse shape. Since the last matchup, the Vikings lost another offensive tackle for the year, Jake Long, who suffered an Achilles injury against Washington.

Reasons the Lions should be pessimistic:

The Vikings are riding high with a little optimism of their own. They finally shook off their four-game losing streak, and with a win on Thanksgiving, they would have firm control over the division with just five weeks left in the season.

While they still have serious problems on the offensive side of the ball, the defense finally seemed to find its footing against Arizona. They sacked Carson Palmer four times, picked him off twice and even scored a defensive touchdown.

Last time the two met, linebacker Eric Kendricks was out. Although he was listed on Monday’s injury report, he’s expected to play. When the Vikings defense is firing on all cylinders, Minnesota becomes a very hard team to beat.

Overall:

Detroit should have a lot more confidence going into this game than they probably had the first time around. They know they have a formula to beat the Vikings, and they’ll have better personnel to do it again this week. That being said, this is still a difficult matchup for Detroit. If the Vikings defense is truly back, expect the Lions’ offensive struggles to continue. If that happens, they’ll be likely relying on some last-minute Matthew Stafford magic yet again, because we know the Lions defense can’t hold an opponent down forever.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.