In a lot of ways, the Minnesota Vikings were the team that sent the Detroit Lions into a downward spiral. While Detroit entered that Week 7 game already on a two-game skid, this was the first game of the season the Lions looked truly overmatched. It was the first game we saw Detroit’s defense get absolutely thrashed by a passing attack, and it remains the only game the Lions have lost by more than one score.
The Lions have never looked the same since that game. The defense still hasn’t recovered, and while the offense remains respectable—even with second and third-string quarterbacks—it hasn’t mattered. Detroit has won just a single game since.
The Vikings’ win over the Lions was their third in a string of four straight wins. However, they’re just 2-2 after that. So has anything changed with the Vikings since the Lions last saw them? Let’s take a look.
The defense has gotten worryingly worse. In fact, much worse. Just take a look at the team’s splits:
First 7 games: 17.6 PPG allowed, 92.7 passer rating allowed, 3.8 YPC allowed
Last 5 games: 23.8 PPG allowed, 89.6 passer rating allowed, 4.7 YPC allowed
While the passer rating has improved over the last month, everything else is down significantly. Minnesota has uncharacteristically allowed 23 or more points in four straight games after allowing that many points in just one of their first seven games (against the Lions, ironically).
As a result, fans are starting to call for some players’ heads. Once star cornerback Xavier Rhodes has been awful and some want him benched.
What’s the same?
Offensively, not much has changed. Despite a nagging injury to Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings pass offense remains one of the most lethal threats in the league. Cousins is second in the NFL in passer rating, fifth in yards per attempt and 10th in ESPN’s QBR.
Dalvin Cook, despite fighting off injuries of his own, remains one of the biggest rushing threats in the league. He’s fifth in total rushing yards (1,046), tied for first in rushing touchdowns (12) and is averaging a solid 4.7 yards per carry (14th).
Here’s where the Vikings ranked in DVOA numbers when the Lions faced them in Week 7. Overall, they were sixth in DVOA. Here are the splits.
Offense: 5th (Pass offense: 7th, Run offense: 9th)
Defense: 11th (Pass defense: 8th, Run defense: 4th)
Now Minnesota has dropped a single spot to seventh overall.
Offense: 6th (Pass offense: 6th, Run offense: 12th)
Defense: 11th (Pass defense: 14th, Run defense: 9th)
Though the overall defensive ranking has not changed, you can see that they’ve gotten significantly worse in both pass defense and run defense.
Dalvin Cook aggravated his lingering chest injury on Monday night, and since the Vikings are playing on a short week, there’s a small chance he misses Sunday’s game. However, Cook, himself, seemed pretty confident he’d play.
“I’ll definitely be ready to go Sunday,” he said after Monday’s game.
However, it will be a lot tougher for left tackle Riley Reiff to play. He suffered a concussion against the Seahawks, and will not have a lot of time to make it through protocol by Sunday. Rashod Hill is expected to replace him. Hill has 15 starts for the Vikings throughout his four years in the league.
Additionally, the Vikings placed linebacker Ben Gedeon on injured reserve on Monday, although the veteran defender did not play the last time the two teams faced off.
Finally, star receiver Adam Thielen has missed four of the last five games with a hamstring injury that he suffered in his first game against the Lions. He practiced all last week, however, so it’s quite possible he returns this week.