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Lions-Vikings Preview: 5 Questions with Will Ragatz of SI Inside the Vikings

Will Ragatz of SI Inside the Vikings answers five questions regarding the Lions' Week 9 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings

Will Ragatz of SI Inside the Vikings answers five questions heading into the Lions' Week 9 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. 

1.) What is the mood of the team after its 28-22 victory over the Packers in Week 8? 

Will Ragatz: The Vikings won't say it, but I have to imagine they're suddenly feeling hopeful about the prospects of going on a bit of a run and getting back into the playoff hunt. 

Beating a team as good as Green Bay, on the road, with the way they did it -- strong offensive line play and some clutch second-half defensive stops -- came out of nowhere, and breathed some momentum into what seemed like a lost season. 

Even though they're just 2-5, this is a team that could easily be 4-3, if it had found a way to turn one-point losses into wins against the Titans and Seahawks. And the schedule opens up now, with the Lions, Bears, Cowboys, Panthers and Jaguars (combined record: 14-24) as the Vikings' next five opponents. 

They're just focused on this week's game, as they should be. But, a 4-1 run to get back to .500 isn't out of the question.

2.) Dalvin Cook's performance last week was stellar, simply put. What makes him a special runner?

Ragatz: Cook has basically every single trait you want out of a star running back: vision, acceleration, agility, power, balance ... and the list goes on. 

The most important one is his vision. He's patient in waiting for holes to develop, and always seems to find a crease behind one of his blockers. Once he's there, he rarely allows the first defender in his path to bring him down. 

Whether it's making that guy miss or breaking a tackle with his incredible contact balance, Cook almost always picks up more yards than you expect him to. 

In the open field, he's got the speed and burst to break big plays every time he has the ball. 

Cook is making his case as the best running back in the NFL, and should be in line for another big performance on Sunday, especially if the offensive line plays as well as it did last weekend.

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3.) What is your reaction to Everson Griffen stating that he took offense to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer stating he was a 'good player' and that he wants to prove Zimmer wrong this Sunday?

Ragatz: I thought it was a bit of an overreaction from Griffen, to be honest. 

I understand that players, particularly fiery ones like him, need to find motivation wherever they can get it. But, I really don't think Zimmer had any ill will in the way he phrased his comments about Griffen. 

Here's what he had to say about it on Friday when asked about Griffen's reaction: 

"I wasn’t trying to be derogatory. You know, Everson, I think I made him a captain my first or second year here. He’s always been a terrific leader for us. He’s always tried to do everything we’ve asked him to do. I thought we had a good relationship, so I don’t feel like I was being derogatory at all. I think Everson understands how I feel about him. I thought he did, anyway.” 

Zimmer probably could've said more initially, but that's just the way he is. He's not a guy who typically heaps praise on former players or opponents. 

Either way, it certainly adds some juice to this week's game. 

Griffen is going to be incredibly fired up for this matchup and the possibility of making a statement to his former coach and team.

I wouldn't necessarily want to be Riley Reiff on Sunday, although Reiff has been playing at a very high level.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Griffen so amped up that he jumps offsides once or twice, while trying to time the snap count -- which is something he became somewhat known for in Minnesota.

4.) What are the key matchups you will be focusing in on Sunday?

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Ragatz: There are a ton of key matchups I'll be watching. 

When the Vikings have the ball, Cook going against a Lions front seven led by Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins will be a fun one. 

He might not touch the ball 32 times like he did last week, but I'd expect another 20-25 considering how dominant he was in Green Bay.

Also, up front, watching Griffen and Romeo Okwara go against Reiff and Brian O'Neill will be entertaining.

And finally, I'll be paying close attention to the battles on the outside between Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson and Lions corners Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye. 

When Detroit is in possession, I'm very curious to see how the Vikings handle T.J. Hockenson, who appears to be emerging in his second season. 

And without Kenny Golladay, they need to pay close attention to Marvin Jones Jr., after he burned them for a four-touchdown game at Ford Field last year. 

The Vikings are extremely thin at cornerback, so they'll need Jeff Gladney and Kris Boyd to step up and play well in this one. 

At running back, I think D'Andre Swift presents more of a threat than Adrian Peterson does at this point in their respective careers.

Of course, it might come down to which of the quarterbacks -- Kirk Cousins or Matthew Stafford, assuming Stafford is activated from the COVID list -- makes more plays for their offense.

5.) How do you see this game playing out at U.S. Bank Stadium?

Ragatz: I honestly have no idea. After how the Vikings played last week, I want to say they should win this one. 

But, they've lost five straight games at U.S. Bank Stadium, and have put up a couple of absolute clunkers this year. So, it's hard for me to know what to expect. 

Golladay being out and the emergence of Vikings rookie right guard Ezra Cleveland are two things that give me confidence in Zimmer's team. 

Plus, I think we're due for a strong game out of Cousins.

I'll say the Vikings win this one, 27-20.

More from SI All Lions:

Lions' Week 9 Friday Injury Report: Walker, Golladay, Agnew Out

Should Adrian Peterson Retire at End of 2020 Season

'I'm Going to Come Out and Dominate': Griffen Wants to Prove Zimmer Wrong

SI NFL Team Publishers Week 9 Predictions

3 Keys to Victory for Lions against Vikings

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