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Points on the Purple: No time for a Vikings letdown

December 23, 2018

LIMBECK: Hey Captain Purple, the Vikings got back in the win column last week and the offense came to life under Kevin Stefanski in his debut as the offensive coordinator. Sure the Vikings were going against a sub-par Miami defense, but getting the running game going and putting up a season-high 41 points was good to see. The Vikings play at Detroit this week and the 5-9 Lions have little to play for being out of the playoff chase.

FELDMAN: Not only are the Lions out of the playoff chase, but much like your stocking on Christmas morning, Helmet Hair, their lineup looks like Santa left about 22 lumps of coal. Their best running back, rookie Kerryon Johnson, is on IR. Their quarterback probably should be. Matthew Stafford was sacked so many times when the teams last played that he has requested this weekend’s matchup be a flag football game.

LIMBECK: The Vikings cannot afford a letdown this week. They control their own destiny to earn a playoff berth and would clinch a wild-card spot if they win and both Philadelphia and Washington lose. But if the Vikings lose and Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas all win, the Vikings would be all but eliminated from the playoffs. That should definitely give the players and coaching staff a major sense of urgency.

FELDMAN: If the Vikings can’t get up for this game, then there’s no sense in even worrying about how they might fare in the postseason. They have everything to play for on Sunday, with a decimated and defeated Lions team on the opposing sideline. Detroit’s players are more worried about making vacation plans for the first week in January than they are about this game. There is no reason the Vikings should lose this game. They’re better than the Lions at nearly every position.

LIMBECK: The good news, as we mentioned earlier, is the Lions are a mess. In addition to Johnson, their top wide receiver (Marvin Jones) is injured and out, and they traded their No. 2 receiver (Golden Tate) nearly two months ago. The Vikings defense that has feasted on average offenses. It is coming off a game in which it had nine sacks. In the first meeting with the Lions, the Vikings had a whopping 10 sacks against Stafford. If the Vikings can get a lead and have a chance to tee off against Stafford, he must might curl up in the fetal position. The Minnesota defense should be fairly healthy coming into the game, although linebacker Eric Kendricks is out.

FELDMAN: Kendricks is a big loss, but the Vikings have plenty of players to cover for him. Anthony Barr looks like he’s playing for a giant new contract. Stephen Weatherly looks like he’s on the verge of becoming the team’s next stud pass-rusher. And the defensive backs who have played larger roles as the season has gone along are rounding into form. Mackenzie Alexander is all over the field, sacking the QB, covering receivers in the slot and downfield. Jayron Kearse has moved around from safety to a hybrid-type linebacker role at times. In other words, this team is finally starting to become the team Mike Zimmer wants it to be.

LIMBECK: When the Vikings beat the Lions 24-9 back on Nov. 4, wide receiver Stefon Diggs did not play. Diggs has plenty of personal incentive over the final two games as he is eight catches short of 100 for the season.

But with coach Mike Zimmer’s quest for a strong running game, it will be interesting to see how much the Vikings pass against the Lions. Detroit’s run defense is solid, but not overwhelming, and defensive end Ziggy Ansah is also among the Lions who is out.

FELDMAN: The Vikings’ ground game has a great opportunity to prove that last week wasn’t just them teeing off on one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Dalvin Cook looked like the player we thought this team was getting when it used a first-round pick on him. And, aside from a bad pick-six that may or may not have been his fault, Kirk Cousins looked solid last week. All that said, I think I’ve picked a game correctly maybe once this year? Maybe less. Who’s counting. Keeping that in mind, I’m all-in on the Lions: Detroit 21, Vikings 20.

LIMBECK: Should the Vikings win this game? Definitely. Could they screw up and lose? Also definitely. The main thing for the Vikings is not to get off to a slow start, or turn the ball over. If the Lions get down early, they might just mail it in. Without help, Detroit won’t be very offensive: Vikings 27, Lions 13.

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