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Lions vs. Vikings stock report: 7 risers, 2 fallers as Lions clinch NFC North

Check out your movers for the week as the Lions defeat the Vikings and clinch the NFC North for the first time in history.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are kings of the North. Man, does it feel good to say that. It wasn’t all pretty, but they got the job done. Here are your movers for the week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Stock up: Ifeatu Melifonwu, S

Stats: 5 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 passes defended, 2 QB hits

I mean, cmon. That’s just a silly stat line. What hasn’t the man been able to do over the past month? I keep thinking it’s the last stock up I’ll give him for a while, but then he just blows past his previous performance each week.

Melifonwu’s plays were even more impressive than the stat line when you consider the context in which they happened. Melifownu delivered some key hits to stall the Vikings offense, and of course, he nabbed the game-sealing INT to crown the Lions kings of the NFC North.

His emergence puts the Lions in a very tough spot with the anticipated return of Ceedy Deuce in the coming weeks. Who do you send to the bench? Certainly not Iffy. Kerby, who just nabbed two interceptions while defending arguably the best receiving corps in the league? Brian Branch, your all-star rookie? What an amazing problem to have.

Stock neutral: Brian Branch, S

Stats: 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 pass defended, 1 QB hit

Did I mention the Lions have a too-many-good-safeties problem? Of course, you wouldn’t have thought so by the way the secondary looked on Minnesota’s first offensive drive. The secondary looked lost, and Branch strung together a holding penalty with a dropped interception that could have gone the other way for six. Instead, the Lions gave up a touchdown on the next play, and the Vikings tied up the game.

The rest of the way, Branch looked significantly better, don’t get me wrong. However, hard to gloss over two pivotal plays that could have swung the game in a different direction early had Branch taken care of business.

Stock up: Kerby Joseph, S

Stats: 9 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass defended

Much like Branch, Kerby was terrific down the stretch, but Joseph might have had the roughest start of them all. He looked out of place early and often before settling in, and the Vikings offense took full advantage of it.

That’s the risk that comes with Joseph’s reward, however, and Kerby sure did reward the Lions. He came up with two interceptions, including his first one in deep solo coverage on Jordan Addison:

Ultimately, for all Joseph struggled to begin with, he did more than redeem himself with these two interceptions. He has had a rocky few weeks in coverage, but this time, the reward came with the risk, and the Lions were rewarded handsomely.

Stock up: Jack Fox, P

Stats: 3 punts, 47.7 yards per punt, 2 punts inside the 20

Week 15 was a rough one for Jack Fox, and he chose the right week to be off. This week, he chose the right week to rebound. On the Lions’ last punt of the game, Fox placed a ball perfectly to set up the Vikings at their own 7-yard line. However, an illegal formation penalty on Trevor Nowaske would back up the Lions and force them to punt again. So, Fox dug deep in his bag, hit a nuke, and sent the ball to the Vikings 7-yard line again. Fox put enough air under it that the coverage team held Vikings receiver Brandon Powell to just 5 return yards, which is an incredible feat for a punt of 57 gross yards.

Stock up: Benito Jones, DT

Stats: 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit

Benito had a nice tackle for loss on Alexander Mattison in the second quarter. He also had key pressure on Vikings QB Nick Mullens on third-and-goal with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. However, what caught my eye on that play was what Jones didn’t do. As he was running full speed into Mullens, Mullens let go of the ball late, as was his tendency all day. Somehow, the 335-pound Jones found it in him to lay off the gas and throw his hands up, so as not to cause a roughing the passer call. It was an impressive feat of athleticism from a guy of his size and a very high-IQ play to avoid extending the Vikings’ drive in the red zone.

Stock up: Kindle Vildor, CB

Stats: 2 tackles, 1 pass defended

The Detroit Lions have a clear circle of life when it comes to their cornerbacks. It goes something like this: (1) show up with low expectations -> (2) outperform expectations against a WR2/WR3 -> (3) get thrown in as CB1 due to injury or lack of CB1 -> (4) get torched -> back to step one.

Right now, Vildor is firmly in step two, and he’s living the good life. With Cam Sutton and Khalil Dorsey starting against the Vikings, Vildor was able to come in in a situational role and excel on a limited snap count. His best work on the day came on the Vikings’ red zone possession with just around six minutes left in the game. On back to back plays, Vildor forced what would have been a touchdown out of Justin Jefferson’s hands, and on the next play he blanketed Jefferson in the end zone while Benito Jones came after Nick Mullens.

That’s no small ask for a relatively new guy, especially on arguably the biggest moment of the season with your franchise’s history is on the line.

Stock down: Cam Sutton and Khalil Dorsey, CB

Sutton: 2 tackles

Dorsey: 1 tackle

Remember the circle of life we just discussed? Sutton and Dorsey are both squarely in step three, and that’s a slippery slope. Since about halfway through the season, it has been apparent that Sutton isn’t a long-term CB1, and he’s much better served as CB2. The guy has talent, it’s just not fair to ask him to match up with opposing WR1s week in and week out.

Meanwhile, we saw flashes of CB2 out of Dorsey last week against the Broncos, but he got torched by K.J. Osborn. Remember, we’re just about two weeks removed from Dorsey being strictly a special teams player.

I remain steadfast in my belief that the Lions’ biggest missing piece on defense is a CB1, not another edge. That much has become evident in recent weeks as Aaron Glenn has gotten creative blitzing with his DBs, and adding a reliable CB1 only frees up safeties to blitz even more. In the meantime, we continue to witness trial by fire in the cornerbacks room.

Stock neutral: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB

Stats: 15 rushes, 80 yards, 2 TD, 4 receptions (7 targets), 20 yards

Gibbs had a big game and was crucial amidst Montgomery’s subpar day, but it wasn’t without leaving some goods on the table. Gibbs didn’t have his usual level of vision, leaving a red zone cutback on the table that likely would have gone for six. He also had another drop on a swing pass on the Lions’ last real offensive possession, and a fumble on what began as an impressive run.

These were little mistakes, but ones that could have easily proven costly in a game this close. However, with his production as good as it was, I can’t ding him for today’s overall performance.

Quick hits

Stock up

Jameson Williams, WR: Williams continues to show development in contested catches and is that’s leading to more YAC opportunities, which he’s taking full advantage of.

Jack Campbell, LB: Campbell still doesn’t look great, but he had a nice moment shuffling Benito Jones along the line of scrimmage to set him up for a TFL, showing good IQ.

Stock neutral

Jonah Jackson, LG: Jackson continues his ups and downs. While most of his reps are stellar, he just has a couple bone-headed snaps every game, including this game where he was driving blind in downfield run blocking.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.