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The Cheat Sheet: Can the Lions spoil the Vikings playoff dreams?

Everything you need to know for Vikings vs. Lions Week 16

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of pride, the Lions don’t have much left to play for this season. At 5-9 they’re guaranteed to have their first losing season since 2015. With two games left to play, their only real consolidation may be to keep the Vikings out of the playoffs.

If the Lions have any shot at all on Sunday they’ll need another big day from Kenny Golladay.

The second-year receiver leads the Lions with 64 receptions, 1,005 yards, and five touchdowns. With Marvin Jones Jr. hurt and Golden Tate traded away, Golladay has been thrust into a number one receiver role.

“You know, with those guys—with Marv being out—it was just more for me to just prove to these coaches I am able to produce without those guys being the main focus on the defense, with me being pretty much the No. 1,” Golladay said.

In their last matchup in Week 9 Golladay was held to three catches for 46 yards, but coach Mike Zimmer clearly respects the Lions young receiver.

”I think he’s played great. He’s a big tall fast guy that’s really good on 50-50 balls, (they’re) moving him around in a lot of places to get him the football. I think they’ve got a really good one there in him,” Zimmer said.

This week you can almost guarantee Golladay is going to see a lot of coverage against Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. They’ll need take a few shots downfield, but don’t be surprised if Zimmer doubles Golladay and forces the Lions to look somewhere else in the passing game.

Opponent snapshot

Right now the Vikings have a great shot at making the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Minnesota’s playoff chances are 57.5 percent according to FiveThirtyEight and 66.4 percent according to Football Outsiders.

A loss to the Lions on Sunday would force the Vikings to defeat the Bears in Week 17 and hope to get in with a record of 8-7-1.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings’ biggest threat

Danielle Hunter

For the fifth straight week, the Lions are going up against one of the NFL’s top pass rushers.

  • Week 12 - Khalil Mack
  • Week 13 - Aaron Donald
  • Week 14 - Chandler Jones
  • Week 15 - Jerry Hughes
  • Week 16 - Danielle Hunter

The Lions have done fairly well in those matchups, but in their Week 9 meeting, Danielle Hunter had 9 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery against the Lions.

Even more impressive is the Vikings ability to get pressure without blitzing.

Hunter is tied for second in the league with 14.5 sacks and is clearly one of the top young rushers in the NFL. The Lions offense will have their hands full on Sunday.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings’ weak link

Offensive line

According to Pro Football Focus, Kirk Cousins has been pressured on nearly 40 percent of his dropbacks this year. Despite all that pressure, they’ve only given up 34 sacks on the season. But Cousins has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks under pressure in 2018.

It’s unclear how much new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski can do to eliminate many of the issues that plagued the Vikings under former coordinator John DeFilippo, but so far the signs have been positive.

Football Outsiders ranks the Vikings’ Adjusted Line Yards at 24th in the league. But much of that could be skewed based on last week’s outstanding performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Even with a weak offensive line, the Lions don’t have much firepower to take advantage of it. Ezekiel Ansah and Da’Shawn Hand have already been lost for the season and now Damon Harrison is dealing with an ankle injury.

Bottom line

This is the Lions last home game of the year. Unfortunately, the Ford Field faithful won’t have much to cheer about this holiday season. The Vikings should handle business on the road to a playoff berth.

Prediction

Vikings 23 Lions 10