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Lions vs. Vikings preview: First-place showdown

James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Eric Kendricks

James Hawkins breaks down Thursday's Lions-Vikings game at Ford Field (12:30 p.m., CBS/WJR).

Vikings to watch

Eric Kendricks, LB: The second-year pro ranks second on the team with 60 tackles and excels in space. He has fared well in covering running backs in pass coverage and will play a key role in containing RB Theo Riddick. Kendricks has eight passes defensed, a force fumble and a 77-yard interception return for a score. He didn’t play in the first meeting due to a concussion.

Danielle Hunter, DE: The 22-year-old has become a fixture on the defensive line and in the backfield. At 6-foot-5 and 252 pounds, he possesses power to bull rush offensive linemen and speed to race around the edge. He has a team-high seven sacks to go along with 30 tackles, a safety, a pass defensed, a force fumble and a 24-yard fumble return for a score.

Stefon Diggs, WR: He has emerged as the one consistent threat on the Vikings’ lackluster offense, but has only found the end zone twice. Diggs ranks third in the league with 67 receptions and ninth with 747 receiving yards. He has recorded a least six receptions in each of the past four games, including a career-high 13 receptions for 80 yards against the Lions in Week 9.

Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Vikings


Home cooking: The Lions won four of their five games at Ford Field, with their lone loss being a 16-15 defeat in Week 2 against the Titans. Detroit has won four straight at home by an average margin of 3.5 points and have forced eight takeaways during the win streak.

Levy’s return? LB DeAndre Levy has been sidelined since Week 2 with quad and knee injuries but returned to practice last week. He was inactive for Sunday’s win over the Jaguars but could possibly suit up against the Vikings, which would mark his first action since playing every defensive snap in a Week 1 loss to the Colts. Levy would provide an immediate boost to a linebacker unit that has had its struggles.

First-place showdown: The Lions (6-4) sit atop the NFC North and their three remaining home games are all against divisional foes – Vikings (6-4), Bears (2-8) and Packers (4-6). A win over Minnesota would give Detroit a one-game lead plus the tiebreaker with five games to play, which would go a long way in its playoff push.

Clutch gene: Matthew Stafford has led the Lions on game-winning fourth-quarter or overtime drives in each of the team’s six wins, which set a new franchise mark for the most in a season by a Lions quarterback since 1950. He passed his previous career high of five set in 2015 along with Charlie Batch’s five in 2000.

Opposite ends: The Vikings boast one of the league’s best defenses, and one of the worst offenses. They rank second in points allowed (17.6) and interceptions (12), third in total defense (306.9 yards) and tied for seventh in sacks (26), but are 22nd in scoring (20.5 points) and last in total offense (293.8 yards).

Fact and figures

* The Lions and Vikings have clashed on Thanksgiving three times in the series history. Detroit won the most recent meeting, 44-38, in 1995.

* The Lions are the first team in NFL history to have six comeback wins after trailing in the fourth quarter in the first 10 games of a season.

* In last week’s win, the Lions scored TDs on offense, defense and special teams for the first time since October 10, 2010, against the St. Louis Rams.

* Sam Martin has totaled a net punting average of 45.8 yards, which ranks the highest among all punters through 11 weeks of the season since 1992.

* With eight receptions last week, Theo Riddick joined James Jones as the only running backs in team history with 120-plus receptions over a two-year span. Riddick’s 123 catches ties Jones (123 in 1983-84) for the most catches over two seasons.