Detroit News scouting report: Vikings at Lions

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News

Vikings at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m., Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/760 AM

Records: Vikings 6-9; Lions 5-10

Line: Vikings by 6.5

Matt Schoch breaks down the Lions' Week 17 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings for The Detroit News:

Alexander Mattison

Key matchup


In this space, we usually talk about how a Detroit unit will match up with an opponent’s. But that won’t matter if last week was any indication.

The Lions were truly an embarrassment last week on national television against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There’s no doubt another loss benefits the franchise with a higher draft pick next spring. But another stinker to close the season is an insult to a long-suffering fan base, which largely uses Lions football Sundays as an escape — especially back in 2020 (remember 2020?!).

More: 'I will be better': Tracy Walker vows to bounce back in any role Lions choose

This state is owed a lot by this franchise, but for this season, finishing with some pride would be an adequate conclusion.

And for all the talk about quarterback Matthew Stafford and how interim coach Darrell Bevell can’t keep him off the field, it would be nice if Stafford could convince his teammates to appear interested in being there too.

Vikings to watch

►Alexander Mattison, RB: While we were all sad to hear the news about the death of Dalvin Cook’s father, which will keep him out of the game, the Detroit defense will be happy not to see the star running back. However, what about a glimpse of a similarly imposing future? Mattison is a second-year near-clone of Cook, rushing for 4.5 yards per carry this season in a reserve role. It’s only a matter of time until he’s running over Lions on his way to big gains in purple.

Justin Jefferson

►Justin Jefferson, WR: Just as Mattison is a next generation Lions killer, Jefferson should catch his share of touchdowns against Detroit over the years. The LSU product already has the franchise rookie record for receptions (79). Jefferson is also the fifth player in NFL history to record five 1,000-yard games as a rookie. His yardage output (1,267) is bested only by the first seasons of Anquan Boldin, who had 1,377 yards for Arizona in 2003; Randy Moss, who had 1,313 yards for Minnesota in 1998; and Odell Beckham Jr., who had 1,305 yards for the New York Giants in 2014.

►Harrison Smith, S: Until recently, the faces largely remained the same for a long time on the dominant Minnesota defense. But through attrition and injuries, only a few of those are still in starting lineup. Smith and linebacker Erik Kendricks are still holding it down for coach Mike Zimmer. Smith is one of the era's best defensive playmakers; no safety has more interceptions than Smith (27) since he entered the league in 2012.

Facts and figures

► Adam Thielen is tied for eighth all-time in Minnesota receptions (393) with Sammy White. Seven receptions on Sunday get Thielen to 400 and ties him for seventh all-time on the list with Ahmad Rashad (yes, that Ahmad Rashad).

► Quarterback Kirk Cousins' top two passer-rating efforts for the Vikings have come against the Lions. In 2019 at Ford Field, Cousins threw for 333 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, a 141.5 passer rating. This year, he bested that rating with a 141.7-effort on Oct. 20, throwing for 220 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, going 13-for-20 passing.

According to The Lines, 10 of Minnesota’s 15 games have hit the over this season; nine of 15 for Detroit. The 54-point total is the second-highest on the board this week, and there’s very good reason for that.

Matt Schoch is a writer for and freelances for The Detroit News.