Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell is not downplaying the magnitude of this week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“This is big,” Campbell said at his weekly news conference Monday. “It’s big for our players, it’s big for us. Shoot, it’s a big game for them. But man, look, they’re all special, but this is one of those games, this is why you’re into coaching, this is why you’re into playing, this is why you love the game of football. It’s going to be awesome.”
The Lions have won four of their past five games to climb back into the playoff race after a 1-6 start. At 5-7, they can afford at most one more loss — and might need to win their remaining five games — if they’re going to make the postseason.
The Lions trail the Seattle Seahawks (7-5) by two games for the final NFC’s final wild card spot. The Washington Commanders (7-5-1) are the first team out of playoff position in the NFC standings.
The Vikings (10-2) have the second-best record in the NFL and can clinch their first outright NFC North title since 2017 with a victory.
Minnesota has won nine of its past 10 games, all by eight points or less, including a 28-24 victory over the Lions in Week 3.
The Lions led nearly that entire game, and Campbell criticized his own late-game decision making after he tried a 54-yard field goal on fourth-and-4 with 1:14 to play that sailed wide right. The miss gave the Vikings the ball at their own 44-yard line, and they scored the game-winning touchdown three plays later with 45 seconds on the clock.
Asked Monday if the Vikings are the same team now that they were in Week 3, Campbell said, “Yes, because they’re still winning.”
“I would say it’s a better version of what they were because they’ve continued to win,” Campbell said. “This is a winning team. They find ways to win, that’s what they do. And those are the hard teams because they’ve done it against multiple opponents, different ways. Special teams, offense, defense, they’re finding ways to win.”
The Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 40-14, on Sunday in their most complete game under Campbell. They scored on their first eight offensive possessions, did not punt and forced an early Jacksonville turnover.
Campbell said he expects a similar atmosphere this week at Ford Field.
“I would say this, man, all hands on deck this week,” he said. “Our fans got to show up, which I know they will. This is going to be electric. It is big.”
Defensive end Romeo Okwara could make his season debut this week against the Vikings.
The Lions activated Okwara from the nonfootball injury list Saturday, the same time they moved Jameson WIlliams fron the nonfootball injury list to the 53-man roster, but made him inactive for the Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Okwara has not played since tearing his Achilles tendon last October in a loss to the Chicago Bears. Campbell said Sunday “there’s a good chance” Okwara returns against the Vikings.
“We just wanted to give him just a little bit more time,” Campbell said Monday. “He’s close. But yeah, we just, we wanted to see how he was. He had a pretty good load last week, let him wake up Sunday morning, how did he feel all that and now here we go. Let’s see where he’s at Wednesday.”
Okwara led the Lions with a team-high 10 sacks in 2020, but played just four games last season because of injury. The Lions rank 26th in the NFL in sack percentage, but have gotten a pass rush boost from rookie James Houston in recent weeks.
The Lions signed Joshua Dobbs to their practice squad Monday as their third quarterback. Dobbs was waived last month by the Cleveland Browns, after Deshaun Watson returned from suspension. He spent his first four NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jaguars, completing 10 of 17 passes in six games as a backup.