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Detroit Lions Week 16 scouting report: Is the Vikings’ offense back after firing John DeFilippo?

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Are the Vikings back in the NFC conversation after a bold coaching change?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This week, we’re going to do our Detroit Lions scouting report a little differently. We’ve already seen the Minnesota Vikings in action against the Lions back in Week 9. We don’t need to know their entire backstory about what has happened between 2017 and 2018. We’ve got a pretty good grasp on who this team is.

So, instead, we’re going to focus on what has happened since the last matchup and see if we can take anything from the last time the two teams met.

For the Vikings, there have been quite a few changes since Week 9. The Vikes are just 2-3 in the last two games, and despite being in the midst of a playoff race, they fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. So is that the kick in the pants the team needed, or will it prove to be a desperate move that didn’t get the job done?

Let’s take a closer look.

2018 season thus far (7-6-1)

Week 1: Win over 49ers, 24-16
Week 2: Tie with Packers, 29-29
Week 3: Loss to Bills, 6-27
Week 4: Loss to Rams, 31-38
Week 5: Win over Eagles, 23-21
Week 6: Win over Cardinals, 27-17
Week 7: Win over Jets, 37-17
Week 8: Loss to Saints, 20-30
Week 9: Win over Lions, 24-9
Week 11: Loss to Bears, 20-25
Week 12: Win over Packers, 24-17
Week 13: Loss to Patriots, 10-24
Week 14: Loss to Seahawks, 7-21
Week 15: Win over Dolphins, 41-27

Stats:

  • 17th in points scored, 12th in points allowed
  • 12th in DVOA (up 6 since Week 9), 16th on offense (up 4), 6th on defense (up 7), 25th on special teams (up 1)

Last time the two teams met, I called the Vikings a shell of themselves, but they were improving. And although they’ve lost three of their last five, they have actually shown those improvements behind the win-loss record. The reason for their poor record isn’t necessary that they got worse, but that they faced some pretty tough opponents. Their three losses came to the Bears (10-4), Patriots (9-5) and Seahawks (8-6).

That being said, the offensive struggles are real, and it’s a bit surprising to see that it has improved by DVOA metrics. Prior to last week’s game against the Dolphins, the Vikings were averaging just 71.3 rushing yards in the previous three games, and Kirk Cousins’ passer rating was just 89.9 in those four games.

But then the Vikings fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo after the Seahawks loss. Head coach Mike Zimmer told Lions reporters the Vikings’ pass-run ratio was not where it needed to be under DeFilippo.

“I just want to be more balanced,” Zimmer said. “We were throwing the ball at a 66 percent clip, and I didn’t think that was in the best interest of our team.”

Cut to last week’s game against the Dolphins and the Vikings ran the ball 40 times for 220 yards and three touchdowns.

The question is whether that’s the result of a philosophical change under a new offensive coordinator or just a happy coincidence against a Dolphins defense that ranks 31st against the run (by yards)? We may find out that answer, as the Vikings will face off against one of the hotter run defenses in the league this week.

Previous matchup: Vikings 24, Lions 9

The last time the Lions and Vikings faced off, it was a defensive battle. Neither team had over 300 yards of total offense, and while the Vikings were able to rush for 128 yards on the day, 70 of those came on one long Dalvin Cook run. For the rest of the day, Minnesota was only able to muster 58 yards on 22 carries (2.6 YPC).

But defensively, the Vikings were absolutely dominant. Detroit rushed for just 66 yards (2.8 YPC) and Matthew Stafford had just 5.5 yards per attempt. Most notably, however, were the 10 sacks Stafford suffered on the day. Six different Vikings players recorded at least 0.5 sacks on the day, as the Lions’ offensive line was just overwhelmed.

This matchup should be a little different, however. The Lions will obviously be hosting the game, giving them a slight home-field advantage. But all of the other changes favor the Lions. In the last matchup, the Vikings were missing Stefon Diggs and Anthony Barr. Additionally, the Lions had Kerryon Johnson—recently placed on IR—in that game.

Perhaps the one thing that could be in the Lions’ favor is that the Week 9 game featured a Lions offense struggling to find an identity after trading away Golden Tate earlier in the week. Unfortunately, the Lions haven’t really found that identity in the six weeks since.

Vegas line for Sunday: Vikings by 5.5