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Detroit News scouting report: Lions at Vikings

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Lions at Vikings

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

TV/radio: CBS/760

Records: Lions 3-4, Vikings 2-5

Line: Vikings by 3½

Rod Beard of The Detroit News breaks down the Lions' Week 9 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings:

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 108.7 rushing yards per game this season.

Key matchup

LIONS' RUN DEFENSE VS. VIKINGS' GROUND GAME

Through the first six games, the Lions’ front seven showed some improvement in stopping the run, giving up just 44 yards to the Jacksonville Jaguars and 66 yards to the Atlanta Falcons, which came in two of the team's three wins. In Detroit's other victory, at the Arizona Cardinals, the Lions surrendered 109 rushing yards.

Translation: The Lions’ three victories this season were also the three games they allowed their fewest rushing yards. That’s no coincidence.

Dalvin Cook presents a different challenge than the Lions have faced. If they can neutralize the run game and put more pressure on Kirk Cousins to throw the ball in predictable passing situations, they can help their cause.

The addition of Everson Griffen will help the loss of Trey Flowers, but the Lions will need to win more of the mini-competitions at the line of scrimmage with the likes of Danny Shelton and John Penisini to secure an advantage.

Subscription: Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Vikings

Vikings to watch

Dalvin Cook, RB: In only six games, Cook ranks second in the league with 652 yards rushing and has an NFL-best 10 rushing scores. Cook dominated last week with 163 rushing yards, 63 receiving yards and four total touchdowns in a surprising win over the Green Bay Packers. The Lions have fared well against Cook, allowing him to reach 100 yards on the ground just once — in the first meeting last season.

Kirk Cousins, QB: The former Michigan State standout has been up and down over the past few years, but he’s on track to have his fewest passing yards in his career as a starter. Cousins is coming off a Pro Bowl selection but his 10 interceptions in seven games are approaching his career-worst mark of 13, which he set in 2017. Cook has helped take some of the pressure off Cousins, but he has to be better if the Vikings are going to turn their season around.

Eric Kendricks, LB: The Vikings’ second-round pick in 2015 has become one of the leading defenders in the league. He ranks third in the NFL with 78 tackles and has double-digit tackles in six of the seven games this season. Kendricks had his best season last year, earning a first-team All-Pro selection. He’s the heart and soul of a tough defensive group.

More: Can Lions take advantage of young, struggling Vikings defense?

Facts and figures

►In the head-to-head series, the Vikings have won the last five meetings, with the last Lions victory, a 14-7 triumph, coming on Oct. 1, 2017, at Minnesota. The current win streak is the longest in the series since the Vikings ran off six straight from Dec. 2007 to Sept. 2010. That was the end of a dominant run by Minnesota that featured 20 wins in 22 matchups.

►The Vikings entered the week with the league leaders in rushing touchdowns (Cook, 10) and receiving touchdowns (Adam Thielen, seven). Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson leads all rookies with 563 yards — and he has more receiving yards through seven games than Randy Moss (541) did in his rookie year in 1998.  

►Adrian Peterson is the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher with 11,747 yards and he had 97 touchdowns in his 10 seasons. He’s scored touchdowns against every team in the league except for the Vikings, Ravens, 49ers, Jets and Colts, having missed that opportunity last week.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard