Free Press sports writers share their predictions for the Detroit Lions‘ game against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis on Sunday (1 p.m., Fox):
The Lions and Vikings played two games decided by a total of four points last season and they are evenly matched enough to think another close game is in the works Sunday. The Lions will need a big day from their rushing attack to keep Minnesota’s pass rush at bay. That won’t be easy with D’Andre Swift’s injury and given the state of the interior offensive line, but Johnson has shown enough creativity in two games as coordinator that points should not be an issue. The bigger challenge for the Lions is stopping Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, and doing so in their first road game of the season against a reeling team coming off big loss to the Eagles. If this game were at Ford Field the outcome might be different, but even on a short week the Vikings seem to have more a sense of desperation to them. The pick: Vikings 27, Lions 23.
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My head tells me the Lions’ high-scoring offense will face a tough test against Jim Harbaugh’s stingy Vikings scoring defense because — wait, he didn’t the job? OK, never mind. I’ll just go with my gut on this one and say the run attack will carry the day and the Lions will win in Minny for the first time since the Jim Caldwell era and they’ll win consecutive games for the first time since the Matt Patricia era. The pick: Lions 30, Vikings 28.
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I’m not just picking the cover. I’m going straight win after the way the Vikings looked against the Eagles. Yes, the Vikings will play better. And the Vikings will score on the Lions’ defense. But 35 is the new magic number for the Lions. And I don’t think the Vikings can score with the Lions. Not when Amon-Ra St. Brown looks over at another team that didn’t draft him. The NFL is learning: Don’t make him mad. The pick: Lions 35, Vikings 31.
Minnesota struggled to score against Philly, but held the Eagles offense to a respectable place, something the Lions could not do. Expect the Vikings to give the Lions’ offense its stiffest test. Expect their offense, and Kirk Cousins, to rebound and grind out the win in the Lions first road game. The pick: Vikings 23, Lions 20.