Divisional matchups in the NFL always build an extra level of excitement in a week. Teams develop rivalries, get familiar with their opponents, and, of course, there are extra stakes in each divisional game.
For the Detroit Lions, NFC North games in December have mostly served as an opportunity to play spoiler. But now they are rolling into the second week of the month winners of four of their last five games with an outside chance at the postseason. Standing in their way this week is NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings, who currently boast the NFL’s second-best record at 10-2.
“This is going to be electric,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said on Monday. “It is big. This is big. It’s big for our players. It’s big for us. Shoot, it’s a big game for them.”
At 5-7, the Lions are currently two games out of a playoff spot. They’ll need to at least win four out of their last five games to give themselves a realistic shot at the postseason. They may have to even run the table.
For the Vikings, a win on Sunday would clinch the NFC North title for them. They would also keep pace with the 11-1 Philadelphia Eagles, who currently own the one-seed in the NFC and would have the conference’s only bye if the playoffs started today.
Throughout his tenure, Campbell has notoriously said that the most important game is always the next one, but he admitted there will be something special about Sunday’s bout with Minnesota.
“They’re all special, but this is one of those games—this is why you’re into coaching, this is why you’re into playing, this is why you love the game of football.”
In the last matchup between the two teams, the Vikings edged out a 28-24 victory after the Lions blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in Minnesota. This time around, Campbell is hoping to use a healthy roster and a loud Ford Field to his advantage to swing the scales in his favor.
“All hands on deck this week,” Campbell said. “Our fans gotta show up, which I know they will.”