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Detroit Lions Week 7 scouting report: The Minnesota Vikings are sneaky good

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The Vikings could make a very good case for best team in the NFC North, despite their two divisional losses.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Just two weeks ago, it looked like the Minnesota Vikings were on the verge of collapsing. After losing to the Chicago Bears, the Vikings were just 2-2 and were 0-2 in the division. Their wide receiver was making vague threats about demanding a trade, their highly-paid quarterback was being labeled as a horrible financial decision, and they were firmly in last place in the NFC North.

Flash forward two weeks and the Vikings are a game out of first place in the division. Their offense looks as potent as ever. Their “struggling” quarterback is in the top 10 of every major quarterback statistic. And hope springs eternal again.

It’s only fitting that the Detroit Lions face them while they’re peaking... and on a short week, no less.

Here’s a closer look at the Lions’ Week 7 opponent.

Minnesota Vikings

Last season:

8-7-1 record (2nd in NFC North)
19th in points scored, 9th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 10th (18th on offense, 4th on defense)

2018 offseason

Key free agent additions: G Josh Kline, DT Shamar Stephen

Key losses: DT Sheldon Richardson, C Nick Easton, RB Latavius Murray, S Andrew Sendejo, DT Tom Johnson

2019 NFL draft picks:

Round 1 - C Garrett Bradbury
Round 2 - TE Irv Smith Jr.
Round 3 - RB Alexander Mattison
Round 4 - G Dru Samia
Round 5 - LB Cameron Smith
Round 6 - Armon Watts
Round 6 - S Marcus Epps
Round 6 - OT Olisaemeka Udoh
Round 7 - CB Kris Boyd
Round 7 - WR Dillon Mitchell
Round 7 - WR Olabisi Johnson
Round 7 - LS Austin Cutting

The Kirk Cousins era got off to a rocky start last season. While the Vikings defense remained as stout as ever, the offense actually took a significant step back under Cousins. After ranking fifth in offensive DVOA in 2017, Minnesota dropped all the way down to 19th last year.

The offseason plan for the Vikings was clear: keep as many defensive pieces as the salary cap will allow and attack the offense—specifically the offensive line—with whatever money is left over and in the draft.

To that end, the Vikings did just about as well as anyone could expect. They miraculously kept Anthony Barr after the Vikings linebacker was on his way to becoming a New York Jet. They went out and got one of the better free agent guards out there in Josh Kline. And they spent their first four draft picks on offense—two on the offensive line.

Vikings 2019 season (4-2)

Week 1: Win over Falcons, 28-12
Week 2: Loss to Packers, 16-21
Week 3: Win over Raiders, 34-14
Week 4: Loss to Bears, 6-16
Week 5: Win over Giants, 28-10
Week 6: Win over Eagles, 38-20

Stats:

  • 12th in points scored; 6th in points allowed
  • 4th in DVOA (5th on offense, 6th on defense)

So far, the results have been promising. After a rocky start offensively, the Vikings appear to be on the right path and potentially one of the best teams in the league. The defense is no different than its always been. They don’t give up many yards on the ground (3.8 YPC, t-7th) and their pass rush is swarming (17 sacks, t-ninth).

And despite all of the Kirk Cousins/Stefon Diggs drama that lasted all of one week, the Minnesota offense is sneakily one of the best in the league. Their balance has a lot to do with it, as Dalvin Cook is back, healthy, and fourth in the league in rushing yards. But their passing game has been just fine. Cousins actually ranks third in the league in passer rating 108.4. It just so turns out that when you play against the Bears defense, things tend to look worse than they actually are.

Key injuries: LT Riley Reiff, LB Ben Gedeon, G Josh Klein

Unlike Vikings teams of the past, they’re entering Week 7 quite healthy. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the place where they’re hurting the most right now is that tenuous offensive line. Klein missed last week’s game with a foot injury and Riley Reiff could not finish after suffering an ankle injury.

Reiff was replaced by Rashod HIll, an undrafted player who has started 15 games since entering the league in 2016. Klein, who has been dealing with a concussion, was replaced by veteran Dakota Dozier, who only has 10 starts under his belt.

Biggest strength: Defensive front seven

As always, the Vikings’ defensive front is full of studs. Danielle Hunter has six sacks. Everson Griffen has three. Linval Joseph is a fantastic presence in the middle. And the Vikings’ linebackers—Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Jayron Kearse—form one of the best trios in the entire league.

Biggest weakness: Offensive line

Even before the injuries hit, the Vikings offensive line remains the shaky house of card for this entire team. Rookie center Garrett Bradbury is going through some serious struggles and the only player on the entire line that has been playing consistently well is right tackle Brian O’Neill, Minnesota’s 2018 second-round pick.

Vegas line for Sunday: Vikings by 1