Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions: Storylines, prediction for a potentially tricky matchup

In this Week 13 Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions matchup, what are the main storylines, the current NFL odds, and our prediction?

When predicting the Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions Week 13 bout, there are a number of intriguing storylines that need to be considered. Let’s take a look at the main storylines for this Vikings vs. Lions matchup, examine the NFL odds, and make a prediction for how the game may go.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions Prediction | Storylines for Week 13

So much about this game screams mismatch, and for a large portion of their first meeting, that is how it seemed to play out. However, the Vikings required a last-minute field goal to avoid a huge upset loss at home to Detroit. Now, they have to go on the road to a division rival desperately seeking their first win.

Everywhere you look, the Vikings have an edge for the most part. Their defense is marginally better this season than the Lions, and their offense has been significantly more potent. In the past four weeks, they have scored an average of 29.5 points per game. Unfortunately, they have allowed opponents to average 29.8.

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The good news for the Vikings is that the Lions have not scored more than 20 points since Week 1. Therefore, if the Vikings’ offense shows up and simply gets them to around that 25-point mark, they have a great chance of coming away with the victory.

Let’s take a look at the storylines for this game and how certain elements may shape our prediction for Vikings at Lions in Week 13.

Will the loss of Dalvin Cook impact the offense?

Whenever a crucial member of an offense goes down with an injury, question marks over its impact immediately arise. Dalvin Cook is a prime example of that, as he is averaging over 100 total yards per game. With the Vikings hanging perilously at 5-6 entering Week 13, will they struggle without Cook?

His impact on this offense is tough to judge. His numbers throughout his career are certainly eye-opening. Cook has averaged 85.6 rushing yards and 28.4 receiving yards per game across his five-year career. Yet, while the sample size is smaller, Alexander Mattison has done a superb job in place of Cook when asked to step up.

This season, Cook missed games in Weeks 3 and 5. In those two contests, Mattison had a total of 225 rushing yards on 51 attempts. He added a further 99 receiving yards and 13 receptions on 15 targets. Last season, Mattison was the lead back in three games. Across those three, he averaged 77.7 rushing yards per game, adding 26 yards receiving per game across 7 receptions and 8 targets.

As the lead back in the last two years, Mattison is averaging 91.6 yards on the ground and 54.4 receiving per game. When he is the starter, he has been performing every bit as well as Cook.

Can the Lions capitalize on the Vikings’ third-down woes on offense?

Neither offense has been good on third downs in 2021. However, for the Lions, third down represents their best opportunity to try and win this game. Over the past three weeks, their defense has held opponents to just 15 points per game, and their performance on third down has been a big part of it.

Now, they face a Minnesota team that has struggled on third downs during the season. The Vikings rank 21st in the league on third down with a 38.1% conversion rate. The only game in which Minnesota was above a 40% conversion rate in the past five weeks was their 34-31 victory over the Packers.

The Vikings have really struggled to convert in recent weeks. Against the Cowboys in Week 8, they were 1-of-13 on third down. In Weeks 9 and 10, they managed to go 5-of-14 against both the Ravens and Chargers. They were 9-of-13 against the Packers before slipping to 2-of-8 against the 49ers.

If the Lions can keep the Vikings under wraps on third down, they have the potential to defy the predictions for this game. Detroit narrowly lost 19-17 to Minnesota in Week 6, in part because they kept them to 5-of-13 on third down. The Lions’ defense needs to do that again this week in order to give their offense a chance.

The Lions need more from their offense

Detroit could not have asked for more from their defense than holding opponents to a maximum of 16 points in the last three weeks. The problem is that the Lions are averaging just 13.33 points per game.

With D’Andre Swift set to miss the game, Detroit’s offense will be without their most explosive playmaker. In his place, someone needs to step up. Jamaal Williams will likely take the lead role. Over his career, he has proven capable of making big plays in crucial moments for the Packers.

The Lions also have Josh Reynolds at receiver after adding him from waivers. He caught 3 of his 5 targets against the Bears for 70 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving. He could be the spark this offense needs at wide receiver. The combination of Reynolds and TE T.J. Hockenson gives the Lions the best pass-catching duo at wide receiver and tight end that they have had so far this season.

Utilizing them effectively falls on the shoulders of Jared Goff, who has struggled this year. According to PFN’s Offensive Value Metric (OVM), Goff is currently the fourth-least valuable QB. The only QBs who have provided less value to their offense this season are Sam Darnold, Zach Wilson, and Trevor Lawrence. Without Swift to lean on, Goff will have to step up for his team.

Vikings at Lions betting line and game prediction

  • Spread: Vikings -7 (Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Moneyline: Vikings -320, Lions +250
  • Total: 46.5

It is hard to view this game as anything more than a comfortable Minnesota victory when you look at it on the surface. Nevertheless, divisional rivalries have a strange way of springing surprises. The Lions scored 10 points inside the final 3 minutes against the Vikings in Week 5 and nearly stole a game they never seemed in.

Detroit’s key is simply third downs. While always a key to any game, the Vikings’ offense has really struggled on that down this year. Additionally, the Lions need to capitalize on the Vikings’ 27th-ranked red-zone defense. However, the Lions’ red-zone offense has a 50% conversion rate and ranks 28th.

Minnesota should be able to win this one with relative ease, even without Cook. The biggest question is whether they can put the Lions away this time or let them hang around. This will be the Lions’ biggest defensive test since their bye week, but there is little reason to believe the offense will be able to keep them much closer than a touchdown.

Vikings vs. Lions prediction: Vikings 27, Lions 19

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