The Lions and Vikings will clash in Minnesota in Week 9 for the first of two meetings between the NFC North rivals.
Detroit's Matthew Stafford vs. Minnesota's Kirk Cousins has been a fun duel to watch in years past.
And depending on where both teams stand heading into this matchup, we could have a couple of highly-motivated teams going head-to-head.
The Lions were hovering around .500 at 3-4-1 heading into Week 9 a season ago, prior to falling apart down the stretch and ultimately finishing 0-8 without Stafford.
Minnesota would love to match last year’s 6-2 start heading into Wk. 9.
Its 2019 campaign wrapped up with a disappointing divisional round defeat at the hands of the eventual NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
Vikings head man Mike Zimmer and the franchise recently made headlines by agreeing on a multi-year contract extension.
So, his superb defensive philosophies will be sticking around at least a little longer.
Vikings (2019: 10-6; 2nd in NFC North)
DT Michael Pierce (via free agency)
DE Anthony Zettel (via free agency)
WR Justin Jefferson (2020 first-round pick)
CB Jeff Gladney (2020 first-round pick)
CB Trae Waynes
WR Stefon Diggs
CB Xavier Rhodes
DE Everson Griffen
As we can see above, there were some notable departures from the Vikings’ roster this offseason -- both offensively and defensively.
The loss of Diggs would naturally make one wonder if the Vikings have any shot of being quite as dynamic through the air as they’ve been in the past.
The additions of Jefferson via the NFL Draft and Tajae Sharpe via free agency, who wasn’t mentioned above, were moves made to address that loss.
Minnesota will still pose one of the best ground games in the league, led by the NFC North’s best running back in Dalvin Cook.
Zimmer’s aforementioned defensive prowess may come into play more than ever before after losing Waynes and Rhodes in the secondary.
The Vikings' two first-round picks came in handy this year with the selections of Jefferson and Gladney, who could potentially start this upcoming season.
Lions (2019: 3-12-1; last in NFC North)
CB Jeff Okudah (2020 first-round pick)
RB D'Andre Swift (2020 second-round pick)
LB Jamie Collins (via free agency)
S Duron Harmon (via trade)
NT Danny Shelton (via free agency)
CB Desmond Trufant (via free agency)
NT Damon "Snacks" Harrison
RT Rick Wagner
LB Devon Kennard
RG Graham Glasgow
CB Darius Slay
Initially, the loss of Slay certainly didn’t help the defensive cause.
But, drafting his successor in Okudah at No. 3 overall felt like a logical and very promising move for the franchise.
As the Lions continue to rebuild their offensive line, adding a new running back in Swift should bode well for providing balance upon Stafford’s return.
Veterans Harmon and Trufant appear to slide into not only starting roles in 2020, but also mentorship roles for some of the younger players in a developing Lions secondary.
The decision to bring in Patricia’s old friend Cory Undlin as the new defensive coordinator is another move worthy of mentioning this offseason.
Detroit’s offense should be dynamic, and could pose an interesting matchup problem for the Vikings’ defense.
But, the question will be can the Lions hold on to a lead late in the game -- should they find themselves in a position of that nature.
What Happened Last Season
The Vikings swept the two-game season series with Detroit a year ago.
The first matchup exemplified Detroit’s defensive issues, allowing Cousins to throw for 338 yards and four touchdowns.
Not to mention, Cook ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 42-30 Minnesota victory.
The second meeting felt very much like a Stafford-less performance from the Lions. It was a 20-7 Vikings win, in which Detroit backup quarterback David Blough threw two interceptions and never really found his footing.
The Vikings will be a different team in some respects heading into 2020.
But, the expectation for Cousins to consistently lead them to victory will still be present.
Detroit doesn’t have a ton of expectations heading into this season.
So, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that all of the pressure in this Week 9 matchup could be on the Vikings; thus, opening the door for a Lions win.