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Detroit Lions Week 17 scouting report: What went wrong for the Minnesota Vikings?

How did Minnesota get this bad this quickly?

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There will be nothing but pride on the line in Week 17 between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. Many fans will simply be watching out of unshakable loyalty, morbid curiosity or for draft implications.

And while that doesn’t give me a ton of motivation to break down this game from an analytical standpoint, this is as good of an opportunity to look at what went wrong for a divisional rival in 2020 and what it means going forward for both the Lions and the Vikings.

So here is your final Detroit Lions scouting report of the 2020 season.

Minnesota Vikings 2020 season thus far (6-9)

Week 1: Lost to Packers, 34-43
Week 2: Lost to Colts, 11-28
Week 3: Lost to Titans, 30-31
Week 4: Defeated Texans, 31-23
Week 5: Lost to Seahawks, 26-27
Week 6: Lost to Falcons, 23-40
Week 8: Defeated Packers, 28-20
Week 9: Defeated Lions, 34-20
Week 10: Defeated Bears, 19-13
Week 11: Loss to Cowboys, 28-31
Week 12: Defeated Panthers, 28-27
Week 13: Defeated Jaguars, 27-24 (OT)
Week 14: Loss to Buccaneers, 16-26
Week 15: Loss to Bears, 27-33
Week 16: Loss to Saints, 33-52

Stats:

  • 13th in points scored (26.2 PPG), 28th in points allowed (29.3 PPG)
  • 19th in DVOA: 9th on offense, 18th on defense, 31st on special teams

What a weird, strange season it’s been for the Minnesota Vikings. Six weeks into the season, they were 1-5 and many were calling for them to blow it all up. They responded out of the bye week by beating every NFC North rival back-to-back-to-back, and even after a horrible loss to the Cowboys, they had managed to work their way back up to 6-6, putting themselves back in the playoff race.

However, injuries, youth, poor luck and even poorer kicking led them to a three-game losing streak to close out December, and Minnesota will be right alongside Detroit with their golf reservations next week.

What has truly been astonishing about this year’s Vikings team is how great they should be on offense. They’ve got a Rookie of the Year candidate in Justin Jefferson (1,267 yards). Dalvin Cook has stayed healthy for almost the entire season and will undoubtedly finish second in the NFL in rushing yards. And while Kirk Cousins has been far from perfect, his passer rating of 103.1 still places him among the top 10.

Yet, for whatever reason, this team isn’t scoring that many points. They’re fourth in yards per play, yet 13th in points scored. Sure, it doesn’t help when your kicker has missed six of 20 field goals and five extra points on the year, but it goes beyond that. The Vikings have also turned the ball over 23 times (seventh most) and suffered 36 sacks (12th most). Those kind of negative plays will kill you.

However, the story of the 2020 Vikings will likely be their defense. We all knew they were going to regress a bit after seeing Michael Pierce opt out with Everson Griffen, Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph and Andrew Sendejo all heading elsewhere in the offseason. However, there was a prevailing theory that their rookie class and head coach Mike Zimmer would hold it together.

That has not happened. The Vikings have given up the fifth-most points in the NFL, the sixth-most yards in the NFL, the sixth-most yards per pass attempt (7.8), and the 13th highest yards per rushing attempt (4.5). And that vaunted Vikings pass rush? Just 22 sacks this year (seventh fewest) and a pass rush win rate of 37 percent (28th).

Hey, but at least they have the best rookie cornerback out of this year’s class in Jeff Gladney Cameron Dantzler.

Key injuries:

IR: LB Anthony Barr, DE Danielle Hunter, DE Kenny Willekes, CB Mike Hughes, S George Iloka, TE Kyle Rudolph, DT Michael Pierce (opt-out)
Current injuries: LB Eric Kendricks (calf), RB Alexander Mattison (concussion), LB Troy Dye (concussion)

That whole defensive meltdown hasn’t been helped by all the injuries on that side of the ball. Their defensive line has been depleted of talent, while all the veterans outside of Harrison Smith in the secondary are out.

Biggest strength: Passing game

With Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, the Vikings still continue to have one of the best one-two punches in the NFL, even after sending Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. As I mentioned, Cousins is still have a very solid year, and given all of Detroit’s trouble on their back end, this should be another terrifying week for the Lions secondary.

Biggest weakness: Linebackers

If there’s a team that can contend with the Lions for worst linebacking corps in the league, it may be the Vikings. Injuries haven’t helped as Eric Kendricks, Troy Dye and Todd Davis all missed last week’s Saints game on a short week, but there also just isn’t much talent there. Y’all saw what Alvin Kamara did to those guys last week. D’Andre Swift could have a nice finale this week.

Vegas line for Sunday: Vikings 6.5