NFL 2017 Week 4: Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings preview and prediction

A battle for NFC North supremacy takes place in Minnesota as the Lions clash with the Vikings.

The Lions lost a heartbreaker to Atlanta 30-26 in a battle of unbeaten teams. Detroit hounded Matt Ryan into mistakes all game long, with three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Meanwhile, the offense often bogged down once they got close to pay dirt, settling for four field goals by Matt Prater. The Lions drove down the field in the closing moments and appeared to score the game-winning touchdown on a pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate with eight seconds left, but it was overturned by instant replay to end the game.

Case Keenum’s second start at quarterback for the Vikings went a lot better than the first, as he led Minnesota to a 34-17 victory over Tampa Bay. Starting again for injured quarterback Sam Bradford, Keenum was practically flawless, completing 25 of 33 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Stefon Diggs did most of the receiving damage with 173 yards and two scores, while rookie Dalvin Cook added 169 total yards and a rushing score. The Vikings defense added two sacks and three interceptions of Jameis Winston.

Can he do it again?

Case Keenum had an amazing performance in the win over Tampa. But Detroit adds a different kind of challenge. Defensive backs Darius Slay and Glover Quin are better in the secondary than anybody Minnesota has faced in the young season to date. Slay can shut just about anybody down at the corner, while Quin makes plays as a centerfielder at safety. Keenum must keep his wits about him to avoid turnovers in this one.

Receiving help

The Lions had hoped that their receiving corps had improved this season to become a more balanced unit. But after the opening game, Detroit has run into the same old problems of having their receivers struggle to make plays, with the exception of slot guy supreme Golden Tate Jr. Things might get tougher against the Vikings, especially with rookie Kenny Golladay unlikely to play due to injury. Matthew Stafford might find tough sledding.

May the better pass rush win

Each team relies on their front four to get to the quarterback, which allows the back seven to refrain from blitzing and take away receiving options. The Lions have received rejuvenated play from Ezekiel Ansah after he was banged up for most of last season. Minnesota has some scary ends in Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, a duo that collapses pockets with the best of them. Keenum and Stafford could be dodging rushers all game long.

Matchup to Watch: Lions WR Golden Tate vs Vikings DB Terence Newman

Newman may be pushing 40, but he still possesses the kind of short-area quickness and savvy to defend receivers in the slot, which is where he often lines up in the Viking nickel and dime packages. Tate finds openings in the defense better than just about anybody else, and he is Matthew Stafford’s favorite target by a wide margin.

Fantasy Football Tip: Lions TE Eric Ebron

The Vikings have allowed touchdown passes to tight ends in two of the first three games. Ebron could be even more involved than usual due to Kenny Golladay’s injury. You might be hoping for a score with Ebron, who’s not the type to rack up 100 yards. But, with the injuries depleting the Fantasy tight end ranks, he could be a decent plug-in.

Betting Tip: Stay away

There was no line at press time, due to uncertainty over Sam Bradford’s status, although all signs point to another Keenum start.

Prediction: Detroit Lions 19-17 Minnesota Vikings

Matt Prater might kick four more field goals in this one, the last of which comes on a Stafford last-minute drive for a Detroit win.

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    2. Minnesota Vikings
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