Lions vs. Vikings scouting report: Matchups, trends, players to watch

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Here's a scouting report ahead of the Detroit Lions' Week 14 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. 

Key matchups

Matchup to watch when the Lions are on offense

For the Lions to have any chance to move the ball effectively, they'll have to give rookie quarterback David Blough adequate time in the pocket. Against the Vikings, that's a bigger challenge than most weeks. 

Danielle Hunter

Not only does Minnesota utilize a wide array of pressure packages, it simply has premier talent on the edges. According to Pro Football Focus, no one has generated more quarterback pressure this season than Danielle Hunter. Slowing him down will primarily fall on Lions right tackle Rick Wagner, who has been less than stellar this year. 

Wagner had one of his better games this season the last time these two teams met, but he still allowed three hurries and a hit on Matthew Stafford. The veteran offensive lineman will need to be at the top of his game this week to keep Blough upright. 

Matchup to watch when the Lions are on defense

When these teams played in October, Darius Slay's hamstring was hurting and he exited after a half. Before leaving, he gave up a long touchdown to Adam Thielen across the middle and also got beat deep down the sideline by Stefon Diggs. 

Thielen's hamstring is still hurting, and he's unlikely to play. That means Slay will likely see a lot of Diggs. A superb route runner, the receiver will put the cornerback's footwork and change-of-direction quickness to the test. 

Underrated opponent

Running back Alexander Mattison

At this point, NFL fans know Dalvin Cook well. The Vikings' starting running back has already topped 1,000 yards on the season and shares the league lead with 12 rushing touchdowns. He pummeled the Lions last time, going off for 142 yards and two scores. 

Alexander Mattison

But he's hurt and how badly is anyone's guess. At the very least, he couldn't finish last week's critical primetime game against Seattle.

Cook is practicing on a limited basis this week, and if the Vikings decide to hold him out of action, or limit his touches, Mattison, the rookie out of Boise State, will get a workload bump. And if you're expecting a big drop off, think again. Mattison has averaged 4.8 yards per carry this season in rotational duty.  

"We thought he was going to be good when we drafted him," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "We didn’t know probably how good he was, I guess. We feel like we found one there. He runs hard, he runs with his pad fully. You kind of know those things, but you don’t really know until you see him against NFL people. He’s done a really good job."

Statistical trends

Minnesota: After an up-and-down first quarter of the season, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been the NFL's best passer. Over the past eight games, he leads the NFL with 20 touchdown tosses and a 120.8 quarterback rating. 

In the first meeting, he put up a monster line against the Lions, completing better than 70 percent of his throws for 338 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

Detroit: Even though Stafford will miss his fifth game, the Lions have continued to push the ball downfield in the passing game. The team's 54 completions of 20 or more yards ranks first in the NFL. 

And when it comes to putting the ball in the end zone, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay are tied for the NFL lead with nine receiving touchdowns each. Jones went off for four against the Vikings earlier this year. 

Vikings to watch

►Kirk Cousins, QB: Cousins has marched the Vikings, 8-4, into a divisional title battle with the 9-3 Packers. The Michigan State product now has three straight wins against the Lions. He got his season-high in passing yards (338) against Detroit in the Vikings’ 42-30 Week 7 win at Ford Field. He’s now got 3,032 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season with a 111.9 rating. Coming off a frustrating 37-30 loss to Seattle on Monday Night Football will fuel Cousins so don’t expect the league’s third-worst passing defense to slow him down.

►Dalvin Cook, RB: Cook got roughed up during the third quarter of the Monday Night Football game when Seattle DE Rasheem Green stripped the running back for a fumble recovery. Cook left the game with an injury to his right clavicle and Minnesota went on to lose 37-30, snapping a two-game win streak. Cook had nine carries for 29 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 35 yards before getting knocked out of the game. He’s the NFL’s No. 5 running back through Week 14 with 1,046 yards on 223 carries with 12 touchdowns. The Lions have the league’s No. 23 rushing defense (118 yards a game) while Cook is averaging 74.6 yards and says he’ll be ready to play Sunday.

►Kyle Rudolph, TE: With continued hamstring issues likely to sideline WR Adam Thielen, who was listed as doubtful Friday afternoon, Rudolph will continue his chemistry of late with Cousins. Rudolph has come on in the last half of the season and has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last four games, getting scores if not yardage. He has 33 receptions for 301 yards and six touchdowns – all scored since Week 7. Rudolph had five catches for 58 yards and a score against the Lions in the Week 7 matchup.

Lions at Vikings

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

TV/radio: Fox/760 AM

Records: Lions 3-8-1, Vikings 8-3

Line: Vikings by 14

Julie Walker contributed to this report.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers