Vikings at Lions
►Kickoff: 1 p.m., Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
►Records: Lions 0-10-1, Vikings 5-6
►Line: Minnesota by 7.5
Detroit News contributor Steve Kornacki breaks down the Detroit Lions’ Week 13 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
VIKINGS’ JUSTIN JEFFERSON VS. LIONS’ CORNERBACKS
Jefferson has become one of the toughest receivers to contain in the league.
He caught seven passes for 124 yards in Minnesota’s 19-17 win over Detroit on Oct. 10 in Minneapolis. Jefferson has been lighting up pretty much every opponent. He had 169 yards two weeks ago against Green Bay and 143 three weeks ago against the Chargers.
His 1,027 yards on 67 catches rank third in the NFL, and his 19 receptions for 20-plus yards lead the league. He’s averaging 15.3 yards per catch and has six touchdowns.
Jefferson, a third-round pick who teamed up with Joe Burrow at LSU, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2020. His 1,400 yards receiving on 88 catches ranked fourth in the NFL. It was the most single-season receiving yardage by a rookie in the Super Bowl era.
The Lions have cornerback Featu Melifonwu (thigh) returning to action. He could be the nickel back with Jerry Jacobs impressing coach Dan Campbell as a starter. Amani Oruwariye is beginning to shine at the other corner spot. He has five interceptions, including one in each of the last two games, and is tied for third in the NFL.
How Detroit’s corners do against Jefferson will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Vikings to watch
► Mason Cole, C: He’s started the last four games, and has really impressed Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer. Cole (6-foot-5, 298 pounds) got his first start because Garrett Bradbury went on the COVID list. He has graded out significantly higher than Bradbury recently to win the job. Cole started 32 games in three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, and set the Michigan record for offensive linemen with 51 starts. He’s smart, agile and tough.
► Alexander Mattison, RB: Even if elusive Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook makes a surprising recovery from his torn labrum and dislocated shoulder suffered last week against San Francisco, Mattison (5-11, 215) will figure prominently. He had 25 carries for 113 yards and seven catches for 40 yards and a touchdown against Detroit when Cook had an ankle injury earlier this season. The 2019 third-round pick from Boise State rushed for 112 yards against Seattle and is a very able replacement.
► Kirk Cousins, QB: He’s quickly developed a chemistry with Jefferson, and now has by far the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (10-to-1 with 23 and 3) of his career. Cousins had a 2.26-to-1 ratio in his first nine seasons with 190 touchdowns and 84 pickoffs. Michigan State’s career total offense leader also has passed for 3,013 yards, already reaching 3,000 yards for the seventh straight season.
Facts and figures
► Minnesota’s top pass-rushers both are out of action. Danielle Hunter (six sacks in seven games) is out with a torn pectoral muscle and Everson Griffen (five sacks in seven games) is on the reserve/non-football injury list after making disturbing Instagram posts and calling 911 about an intruder at his home before being transported to a mental-health facility. Griffen played for the Lions in 2020.
► The Vikings have a hefty passing advantage on the Lions with 7.17 yards per pass to 5.59 for Detroit and 23 touchdown passes to 10.
► Minnesota has done very well on fourth-down conversions, going 9-for-14 (64%) while Detroit is 10-for-23 (43%).
Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.