Lions at Vikings -- Week 10
Where: Mall of America Field, Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn. (turf, indoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: Lions by 2
Records: Vikings (Overall: 5-4, NFC North: 1-0); Lions (Overall: 4-4, NFC North: 0-2)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Sept. 30, 2012: Vikings 20, Lions 13; Dec. 11, 2011: Lions 34, Vikings 28. Series record: Vikings lead 67-33-2.
What matters: The Lions will be looking for revenge from the early season home loss at the hands of the Vikings. They are playing much better now than when the teams met in Week 4, and their offense is clicking again -- racking up the second-most yards per game in the league (410.9 yards per game). QB Matthew Stafford is on his game as the Lions have the No. 1 passing offense in the league (307.3 yards per game), and he could present a considerable challenge to the Vikings' defense.
Who matters: The play of Christian Ponder is arguably the single-most important factor in Sunday’s game. He has been struggling in recent weeks (throwing for less than 65 yards in two of the past three games) and he will likely be without his most productive target, WR Percy Harvin (ankle). If Ponder can instead recall how to get the ball to TE Kyle Rudolph (who has five touchdowns but has only two catches for 17 yards in the past three games) or to his deep threat WR Jerome Simpson, it will take pressure and attention off RB Adrian Peterson, who is on his way to having a monster season. Ponder has to make quicker decisions and better throws. In the first Lions game, the Vikings won the game without scoring an offensive touchdown -- they will not get away with that in this one.
Key matchups: Stafford is hot and the Lions’ passing game is rolling again, so the key matchup for Minnesota will be the secondary’s ability to shut down Lions' receivers. WR Nate Burleson is out for the season and WR Calvin Johnson (knee) is hobbled, but the Lions still have plenty of firepower in the unit. The Vikings are missing CB Chris Cook (broken arm) and A.J. Jefferson filled in last week, and may still be working his way into the position. The Vikings have been struggling in rush defense (ranked 18th), but the Lions aren’t as big a threat there (ranked 22nd), so Minnesota needs to shut down the Lions passing game to get a win and stay out of the cellar in the NFC North.
Injuries of note: WR Percy Harvin sprained his ankle in three places last Sunday and while he said earlier in the week that he was hoping to play on Sunday, it -- in his words -- is a long shot. Harvin’s absence creates a big hole in the Vikings' offense, as he leads the league in receptions (62) and return yardage average (35.9). Rookie WR Jarius Wright may finally get a shot to suit up for a regular season game to replace Harvin. Also, NT Letroy Guion has turf toe and may not be in the lineup Sunday. DT Fred Evans will the get the majority of snaps in his place if Guion can’t go.
Inside stuff: The Vikings RB Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with 957 rushing yards and ranks second among running backs with a 5.7 yards per carry average. Peterson has three consecutive games of 100-plus yards for the first time since 2008. And last week he rushed for 100-plus yards in a half for the 12th time in his career, which far outpaces the second Viking on the list: Robert Smith, who did it twice.
Connections: Vikings FB Jerome Felton played for the Lions from 2008-10; Lions backup QB Shaun Hill spent four years in Minnesota (2002-05) and WR Nate Burleson started his career in Minnesota and has been in Detroit for three years (2003-05) -- but he is out for the season with a broken leg.
Stat you should know: Vikings K Blair Walsh is having a great rookie season. He is second in the league with 35 kickoff touchbacks, and he has the opportunity to break the team record, which is 40, this week against the Lions. Walsh also is tied for third in the NFL with 19 (of 20) field goals made and has the fourth-most points scored in the NFL with 76.
Record watch: Vikings DT Kevin Williams will make his 150th career start in Week 10, which will tie him with Hall of Famer John Randle for the second-most starts by a defensive tackle in Vikings' history. Former DT Alan Page is first with 157 starts in 160 games.
Looking ahead: The Vikings have a bye next week, and are the final NFC North team to take a week off. The Lions return home to host the Green Bay Packers, who will be coming off their bye in Week 10.
Prediction: Lions 24, Vikings 21
For more Vikings news and notes, follow Joe Oberle on Twitter @CBSVikings and @joeoberle.