Predictions: Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings

Detroit News

▶ Nolan Bianchi: The Lions desperately need to win this football game, and for the first time in a long time, that simple fact is enough to make you believe that they will. Slowing down the Vikings will be no easy task — it’s hard to expect Justin Jefferson will be shut down the way he was in Week 3 — but Detroit’s defense now is a night-and-day difference from where it was to start the season. It’s important for the Lions to keep the energy on their side, meaning Jared Goff and Co. have to keep the ball in their hands. But, if they do that — and the Lions’ defense can force a timely turnover the way it has in recent weeks — Vegas won’t regret making Detroit the favorite. Pick: Lions, 30-20

▶ John Niyo: The betting public quickly lined up behind the Lions to flip the odds, and for good reason. The underlying analytics tell you to ignore the records in this matchup. One example: Detroit’s ranked 13th in overall efficiency this season, while Minnesota is 20th, per Football Outsiders. But the Vikings are 9-0 in one-score games, including that fourth-quarter comeback over the Lions in Week 3. They’re also sitting on a magic number of one to clinch the NFC North, so there’s enough incentive here for the visitors to match the Lions’ intensity and the emotion inside Ford Field. Both teams appear to be battling illness in addition to the injuries this week, but I’m not sure that’ll slow either offense down Sunday. And I’m not sure the Lions can keep Justin Jefferson in check twice in a season. Pick: Vikings, 31-27

▶ Justin Rogers: There’s a narrative, supported by analytics, that these Vikings are nowhere near as good as their record. I’m admittedly a sucker for analytics, but I’m not going to dismiss the most important stat: points scored vs. points allowed. I’m sure the Vikings have caught some breaks along the way — in fact, I’m sure of it, having witnessed a coaching blunder in Week 3 giving them a comeback win over these same Lions — but you don’t win nine straight one-score games by accident. This is a well-coached team possessing the fortitude to handle business in crunch time. That said, there’s no denying these Lions are red hot, and if the offense continues to play at the level it did against the Jaguars last Sunday, the Vikings could lose their third this season by double-digits. I’m not ready to go that far, but I believe Minnesota’s NFC North coronation will be postponed at least one more week. Pick: Lions, 30-24

▶ Bob Wojnowski: The Lions have won four of five, and rising expectations are reflected in the point spread. At 5-7, they’re favored by two over the 10-2 Vikings, for legitimate reasons. Nine of the Vikings’ 10 wins have been by eight points or fewer, a thin margin that invariably evens out in the NFL. One of those tight ones was 28-24 over the Lions, a game Detroit led by 10 in the fourth quarter. Jared Goff says he’s playing the best football of his career, and it coincides with the offense getting healthy. Any hope of the playoffs, however faint, rides on this game, and Ford Field should be shaking. These are the two lowest-ranked teams in total defense, so expect a shootout, and Kirk Cousins will do his standard damage. But Goff has all his weapons, and he’ll feast with Amon-Ra St. Brown, officially one of the most dependable receivers in the league. Pick: Lions, 34-28

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