Five things to watch: Vikings at Lions

Detroit News

By Matt Schoch
 |  Special to The Detroit News

A National Football League game will be played on Sunday at Ford Field.

There will be referees there, the stats will matter for the official record and the teams will have uniforms and everything.

The Detroit Lions will host the Minnesota Vikings to close a season both fan bases would just as soon forget.

There’s no need to beat a dead horse with more snark, so let’s just get to the proceedings.

Here are five things to watch as the Lions play host to the Vikings (1 p.m., Fox/WJR 760-AM):

►1. Let’s lose! It would be nice if the Lions showed more pride than last week against Tampa Bay; a repeat performance is not a great scenario. But a win on Sunday is an even worse scenario. Despite what Matt Patricia though in Week 17 at Green Bay in his first season, there is no benefit. The win slipped the Lions three spots in the draft from No. 5 to 8, missing on chances to draft linebacker Devin White, quarterback Daniel Jones and defensive end Josh Allen. T.J. Hockenson is a Pro Bowler in year two, but the result doesn’t impact the process: It’s better to pick fifth than eighth. The Lions could pick anywhere from third to 13th, but a loss is all they can do to help draft positioning.

More: Detroit News scouting report: Vikings at Lions

►2. Foxy leg: Speaking of Lions Pro Bowlers, this is the swan song for Jack Fox’s terrific season. And based on Detroit’s offense, he’ll have plenty of chances to finish strong. Fox enters the game with a 49.1-yard gross punt average, third-best in the NFL this season. Michael Dickson of Seattle leads with a 49.3 average, and Jack Bailey of New England sits at 49.1, just percentage points ahead of Fox. Fox is also second in net average (44.9) and he could end 2020 as the Lions’ single-season leader in both categories.

►3. Goodbye? Wide receiver Marvin Jones, kicker Matt Prater, linebacker Jarrad Davis, returner Jamal Agnew and defensive end Romeo Okwara are among the unrestricted free agents who could be playing their finals games for Detroit. Add Kenny Golladay to that list too, though he won’t play on Sunday. And then there’s the quarterback question for the incoming front office. Though Matthew Stafford is under contract for two more years, a trade isn’t out of the question. That’s a lot of key impact players. If you’re the sentimental type, you should probably tune in.

Subscription: Detroit News predictions: Vikings at Lions

►4. Walker’s role: Tracy Walker has at times been one of the few exciting young players drafted by Bob Quinn. This year has been a regression for the third-year player, moved from free safety to make room for Duron Harmon. Maybe a better future could see him back at his old position, but he can still make plays on Sunday. Momentum from the final game into the offseason is largely not a thing, but for a young player like Walker, positive feelings going into a huge 2021 season for him couldn’t hurt.

►5. Embrace the suck: What else can we say about the Lions? We’ve given you 80 things to watch in games this season, but nothing changed one of the constants of Michigan life: The Lions will disappoint you. And that may never change. But as we look at a new year and new challenges for the team, you can choose to be optimistic about the future. But that unfortunately won’t change the outcome. But how we perceive things can change. There’s something comforting about the familiarity of them letting us down We can laugh and crack the same old jokes about the same old Lions. So we have that. And we might always.

Matt Schoch writes for and also freelances for The Detroit News.

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