Five things to watch: Lions vs. Vikings

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News

This is the hardest assignment I’ve ever had, but I think we did it.

Here are five things to watch Sunday in the home finale against Minnesota (1 p.m., FOX, WJR 760):

The Vikings' Danielle Hunter (99) had plenty to smile about in his team's first meeting this season with the Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford (9). The Vikings sacked Stafford 10 times in handing the Lions a 24-9 loss.

1. Does Stafford play?

With nothing to play for and the organization standing to actually benefit from a loss with a better draft pick, it’ll be interesting to see what coach Matt Patricia does.

Will they run the hobbled Matthew Stafford our there again, needlessly risking injury for the 30-year-old against a Minnesota defense that has terrorized him?

Patricia is noted for his smarts. It’s time he shows them and tell Stafford to take the rest of the year off.

More: Banged-up Lions QB Matthew Stafford braces for sack-happy foe

2. They 'like that?'

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins of Holland has a lot of fans in west Michigan and also in Spartan Nation.

But the Minnesota natives were restless after two straight losses where the Vikings combined for 17 points. Heading into last week, there were a lot of stories centered around Cousins and his $84 million contract.

But after the Vikings romped past Miami, 41-17, perhaps Captain Kirk has steadied the ship.

More: Kirk Cousins hasn't taken Vikings to new heights

3. Hard to say goodbye

Many of the Detroit’s 22 free agents will be playing their final home games with the team.

But so could veterans such as safety Glover Quin, who could be cut as a cap casualty.

Quin has been a stalwart for the defense since coming over as a free agent from Houston in 2013. He hasn’t missed a game since he was a rookie in 2009, starting 146 straight overall.

Hopefully he gets a nice Ford Field send-off in what will probably be his last game with the Lions.

More: A quick look at the Lions' free agents to be

4. Super Bowl stars?

What’s actually more important to most fans this weekend is their fantasy football Super Bowls.

For the Lions, Kenny Golladay is probably the only player good enough to help a team to the fantasy promised land, while Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Dalvin Cook could’ve been fantasy players on solid teams this year.

ESPN’s Matthew Berry liked Thielen’s upside this week, noting how the Lions have struggled against slot receivers. This despite Nevin Lawson having success earlier this year against Thielen.

And since you didn’t make your league’s finals once again, maybe you can scout these guys for next year’s draft.

More:View from the other side: Lions vs. Vikings

More: Staff predictions: Lions vs. Vikings

5. New scoreboard watching

Lions’ fans can now shift and pay attention to the league’s dregs as draft order is the most important thing going forward.

The Lions are among five 5-9 teams. 

Seeing how Green Bay (5-8-1) fares Sunday at the New York Jets (4-10) is the most important. Not only are both piled up in the draft demolition derby, but the Lions could clinch last place with a loss and a Packers’ win.

A last-place schedule next season should mean another trip to Arizona and not going to San Francisco again to face a rehabbed Jimmy Garoppolo. It also could mean playing Tampa Bay next season instead of Atlanta.

Gentlemen, start your tanks!

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.