Week 5 offers us a classic NFC North matchup, as the Detroit Lions (0-4) head to U.S. Bank Stadium to take on the Minnesota Vikings (1-3). Struggling out of the gate, this is a must-win game for both teams if they want any shot of making a playoff run this year.
The Lions are spiraling. Head coach Dan Campbell has already said that the team will likely be without Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow, two very solid offensive linemen, in Week 5. Campbell also confirmed that their top pass rusher Romeo Okwara suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 4.
Despite promising performances from budding stars D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson, Detroit is outmatched on paper in most games. With the second-worst point differential in the NFC, the Lions look like easy prey.
Faced with a challenging first four games of the season, the Vikings head into Week 5 at 1-3. A schedule starting with the Bengals, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Browns is no easy task, but Minnesota fans surely expected more than what they’ve received.
Dalvin Cook made his return last week against the Browns, albeit with a reduced workload. Cook missed some time that game due to an ankle injury and was limited to just 9 carries. His status will be one to monitor, although Alexander Mattison has proven to be a quality backup.
A get-right game is exactly what the Vikings need. Minnesota has a seven-game win streak against the Lions, the perennial cellar-dwellers of the NFC North standings. Will it be extended to eight on Sunday?
Below, we’ll answer that question and more in the NFL pick of the day series.
All odds and lines are current as of Friday, October 8.
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Lions vs Vikings Prediction
Detroit’s offseason trade of Matthew Stafford to the Rams gave us a clear view of what to expect from this team in 2021. There was a slight glimmer of hope that a change at QB and continued development of a youthful roster could lead to improvement this year.
Jared Goff has been serviceable, if not uninspiring. QBR and passer rating metrics both peg him as a below-average quarterback. However, the Lions’ performance, or lack thereof, cannot entirely be pinned on him.
Detroit features a carousel of replacement-level wideouts who don’t quite have established roles. Quintez Cephus looks to be gaining ground as the WR1, recording 4 catches for 83 yards last week. Kalif Raymond had a nice game as well, bringing in two touchdowns.
First-round pick Penei Sewell was labelled as “NFL ready" coming out of Oregon. His performance at left tackle has been abysmal to date.
Sewell turns 21 on Saturday, so this is hardly an indictment of his future potential. Rostered on one of the two remaining winless teams in the NFL, he’ll at least be able to commiserate at a bar with a cold brew come Monday.
Update- Sewell is now questionable with an ankle injury and has not practiced this week. Detroit’s coaching staff has said they’re preparing to play without him this weekend.
While Detroit’s offense isn’t great, the defense is horrendous. The Lions have had the fewest passes attempted against them this year. This is not because they have a lockdown corner — Darius Slay is on the Eagles now.
Game script is leading teams to throw less against the Lions, as whoever plays the Lions that week will likely be in the lead. The biggest issue is that Detroit is allowing 10.6 yards per pass attempt.
On average, the Detroit Lions give up a first down’s worth of yardage per passing attempt.
Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and KJ Osborn will be in for a fun weekend. Don’t forget about Tyler Conklin, who has gotten at least four targets in every game this year.
The Vikings will come out on top, and I think they will by multiple scores, which is reflected in the NFL gameday odds.
Prediction: Vikings 28, Lions 14
Lions vs Vikings Best Bets
Best Bet: Vikings -10 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1.5 Units
Kirk Cousins should continue to improve upon a strong personal start to the season, as he ranks No. 7 in QBR thanks to a 9:1 TD to INT ratio. The Vikings will likely get the ball moving through the air early to score quick and then seal it away with the run game.
Both the Lions and Vikings are 2-2 against the spread this year, but this matchup screams blowout. The Chicago Bears only needed 17 pass attempts to beat the Lions last week, and they did so with a win by 10 points.
Dalvin Cook making it through a week of practice at full strength would be a boost for the Vikings, but they’ve got an even bigger boost returning on defense. Four-time Pro Bowler Anthony Barr is likely to make his season debut, per coach Mike Zimmer.
Barr’s peak came early, as his second season in the NFL in 2015 was his best by far. Despite this, his veteran presence and ability to keep up with T.J. Hockenson in coverage will be a welcome return for the Vikings defense.
I am confident that the Vikings will be able to score at will against the porous Lions defense. There’s just no way that they can stop the pass.
I am far less confident in the Lions being able to answer with points of their own due to another loss on their offensive line. Taylor Decker has been out all year, but the new loss of Ragnow is a brutal blow. His 86.2 overall grade by Pro Football Focus is the second-highest at center in the league.
Perhaps due to key injuries to Lions starters, this line has moved from -8.5 for the Vikings all the way to -10. I’m fine still betting this NFL bet of the day with confidence up to -11.5 in favor of the Vikings.
Best Bet: Under 49.5 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
In a season where it feels like every team has already been decimated by injuries, this game could be one that unofficially ends early in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota should have no issues being up multiple scores late in the game. They’re not a bad team — in fact, they’re the only team with a positive point differential in the NFC North. The Vikings still have reason to want to keep their stars healthy.
Sean Mannion has been the backup to Cousins this year, but I think we could see the Vikings’ 2021 third-round pick Kellen Mond active for this game. Both are nowhere near currently as talented is as Cousins is, but a blowout against Detroit would be a great spot to get them in-game reps.
If Cook is still nursing his ankle injury this weekend, the Vikings can play it safe due to the improvement of Alexander Mattison. Week 3 against Seattle was just the second time in his young career that Mattison topped 4 targets.
Cook has averaged 4.3 targets per game for his career. If Mattison draws the start, the Vikings will be able to plug in Mattison as the lead back again.
Both teams are top-10 in the league in plays per game, but rank in the bottom-half in points per game. The Vikings have an overtime game and multiple close losses to attribute that stat to, while the Lions are always trailing and unsuccessfully trying to catch up.
Due to injury concerns for both sides and a lack competition from Detroit, I like Under 49.5 points here. I would bet it down to Under 47.
Best Bet: Jared Goff Over 0.5 Interceptions (-130) at DraftKings
Wager: 1 Unit
Goff has done a solid job of protecting the ball through four weeks, only throwing two interceptions. With multiple injuries to the offensive line and questionable tags on his top targets Hockenson and Swift, things could get ugly.
The Lions offensive line wasn’t great to begin with, but new losses of Ragnow and potentially Sewell would be a devastating blow.
As far as skill position players go, TJ Hockenson has been a real difference maker at TE. His absence would be much harder to replace than Swift’s, as Jamaal Williams has made his case to earn a share of the workload. All three are listed as questionable and went through a limited practice on Friday.
Surrounded by injuries and an uninspiring WR group that won’t create much separation from Minnesota DBs, I’ll go with the odds and bet that Goff throws a pick. It might not be entirely his fault, though.
Best Bet: Amon-Ra St. Brown Under 27.5 Receiving Yards (-115) at DraftKings
Wager: 1 Unit
Amon-Ra St. Brown was an intriguing 4th-round pick by the Lions, but has had a pedestrian start to his NFL career. His one highlight week so far came in Week 1 when he recorded six catches for 70 yards on eight targets.
Since then we’ve seen Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond put up better receiving numbers behind the consistent volume given to Hockenson and Swift.
Following Week 1, St. Brown posted receiving lines of two yards, 18 yards, and 23 yards. While I expect the Lions to be throwing plenty while they’re trailing, it’s still too early for the rookie to be heavily involved.
Keep an eye on St. Brown’s development if he starts up a late-season breakout. His breakout age of 18.9 at USC was impressive; this metric has been a solid predictor of success at the NFL level for wide receivers. However, his involvement to date does not inspire confidence of an impact performance in Week 5.
Best Bet: Alexander Mattison Anytime TD Scorer (+180) at DraftKings
Wager: 0.75 Units
Dalvin Cook stated this week that his ankle is still causing him pain. He’s listed questionable for Sunday as of now and will likely play, but you can expect Mattison to still be involved.
After posting 22 carries, 206 yards, and two touchdown against the Lions in Week 9 of 2020, I’d expect the Vikings to work in Mattison’s fresh legs plenty in a game that shouldn’t be close.
Vikings rushing TDs against the Lions are as sure of a thing as the sun rising in the morning. Even third-stringer Ameer Abdullah found the end zone on the ground in both meetings between these two teams last year.
If Cook is ruled out, this line will quickly move in favor of Mattison scoring. Even if Cook is active, this looks like a prime spot for Mattison to make his first trip to pay dirt of the 2021 season.