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Vikings at Lions Six Pack: What I'm Looking For

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The Vikings look to move to 4-2 on the season to keep within striking distance of Green Bay. How do they get out of Detroit with a win?

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

At 3-2, the Vikings find themselves over .500 after five games for the first time since 2012, and only the third time since 2007 (2009 was the other year). The next two games are NFC North road contests, and as Ben Goessling of ESPN tweeted earlier, the Vikings road record in the division has been pretty abysmal in recent years:

Detroit is the only team the Vikings can consistently beat on the road in the division, yet they're only 1-4 in the last five games there, too. Head coach Mike Zimmer took his team there last year and came out on the short end of the stick by a score of 16-14.

As encouraging as this 3-2 start is, if you can't win division games on the road, you're not going to compete for division titles and the playoffs on a consistent basis. The Vikings need to turn around their dismal road record in general, and division road record in particular. That turnaround needs to start against Detroit Sunday, and in two weeks against Chicago.

So, how are they going to right the longboat? Let's find out.

1. Eliminate the Lions running game. In their first meeting back in week two, which the Vikings won 26-16, the Vikings shut down the Lions running game early, and never let up. Their running game hasn't gotten any better--Joique Bell has been hurt, and after a sizzling debut, rookie Ameer Abdullah has fizzled. In their three wins, Minnesota has stopped the running attack and forced teams into a one dimensional offense before halftime. They need to do that again. Stonewalling the run game will go a long way in trying to...

2. Set the tone early and finish drives. The one thing that has really hurt Minnesota in their 2 road losses have been slow starts. They never rallied against San Francisco, and although they rallied late against Denver, it wasn't enough to get a win. A fast start by both the offense and defense, say an opening three and out for the defense and a first drive touchdown for the offense, and the Lions are already on their heels. The Vikings offense needs to finish drives with a touchdown, especially early. If that happens, it's very possible the 'here we go again' mentality creeps in, and the Vikings can turn this into a statement game. But if they're going to make a statement, the offense needs...

3. Explosive plays through the air. I like the future of this Vikings offense through the air. Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs present a coverage nightmare for opposing defenses, and they both have top end speed that will severely punish defenses that don't tackle well in space. As good as Diggs has been, the one play that stands out to me is a screen pass against the Chiefs. He got about 10 yards, but was one missed tackle from taking it to the house. The Lions defense is bad, and I think we'll see a coming out party for both Diggs and Wallace Sunday. But to to that...

4. Adrian Peterson has to keep the defense honest...oh, and don't fumble the ball. Peterson had his first 100 yard rushing game of the year against the Lions, and as bad as the Lions pass defense is, the rushing defense is worse. I would say a duplication of week two would be in order here, but Peterson fumbled twice, losing one, and would've had a third fumble on the goal line if the Lions weren't flagged for a penalty that negated the play. They can't afford to do that, because they're on the road. Instead, they'll need to...

5. Play a clean game. No turnovers, no drive killing (or on defense, drive sustaining) penalties, and force the action. The Lions rallied against the Bears last week for their first win, and this is still a dangerous team. But in watching the highlights, the Bears contributed to their own demise several times, and should have won that game by a decent margin. The Vikings won in week two by playing a fairly clean game, but still shot themselves in the foot with a couple of dumb penalties and turnovers. That worked out at home, but the road is a different environment, and the last thing you want to do is give the home crowd a reason to stomp and cheer. Take them out of the game early, turn Ford Field into a mausoleum (or a boo factory), and a road win is theirs. Finally, they need to...

6. Hit Matthew Stafford on every play. In week two the Vikings pounded Stafford to the point he was questionable for the following game. With an ineffective running game and a cornerback in Xavier Rhodes that can handle Calvin Johnson, I expect the Lions offense to throw a lot, all over the field. Stafford has been hit a lot this year, but if you give him a comfortable pocket, he'll shred you. Just ask the Bears. Harass, hit, and sack Stafford, he'll force the ball, make a mistake or two, and the Vikings will leave Ford Field with a much needed division road win.