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Five (More) Good Questions with Pride of Detroit

They’re back!

It’s time for the Minnesota Vikings to start completing their annual home-and-home series with their division rivals, and the first one of those will be when the purple face the Detroit Lions this coming Sunday at Ford Field. The Vikings played all of their division rivals at home by Week 5 this year, so three of the final five games will see them take to the road to take on the other NFC North teams.

We had an opportunity to sit down and exchange questions with Mike Payton from our friends at Pride of Detroit, SB Nation’s home for everything relating to the Detroit Lions. Here are his answers to my questions, and you can read the Q&A I did with him over at Pride of Detroit.

1) The last time these two teams met, the Vikings pulled out a 28-24 victory on a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in regulation. How have the Lions changed since then?

They’ve changed a lot since then. The last five weeks have been wild for the Lions. They fired defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant and then immediately turned things around there. They’ve taken the worst defense in the league and turned it into one of the best over the last few weeks. They’re sixth in the league in DVOA since Week 9. On top of that, they’re healthier than they’ve ever been this season. Their offense has returned all its weapons and has added a new one in Jameson Williams. Of course we don’t quite know what Williams will be just yet. The Lions are just a whole different team now.

2) The first game between these two teams saw Dan Campbell take a lot of chances on fourth down. Has he continued to do that throughout the season and, if so, has it been to the benefit or detriment of the team?

He has. I think that’s just going to be something that Campbell does as a coach. For the most part, it’s been working pretty well all season. There comes a time or two when it doesn’t and we definitely saw one of those times against the Vikings early in the season. Expect the Lions to be aggressive early and often in this game. The Lions will go on fourth down at any point in the game.

3) The Lions finally activated first-round pick Jameson Williams, who they were able to draft because of a trade with the Vikings. What sort of impact do you envision him having on the Detroit offense?

I think when he’s fully ready to go, he’ll be a guy that can stretch the field and allow the Lions to take the top off defenses. Hopefully he’s a guy whose presence will help open things up for other guys on the field too. In terms of this Sunday, I would expect him to see more targets than he did against the Jaguars, but still very much be a guy on a snap count. I’m not sure if they will ever fully unleash him this season. If they do, it might be in the final couple weeks of the season.

4) Give us one player for the Lions on each side of the ball that might be “under the radar” that you think will play a big role in Sunday’s outcome.

On offense it’s DJ Chark. I know Chark isn’t necessarily a guy that’s under the radar, but his year in Detroit hasn’t been that great and it’s been plagued with injuries. He had a great game against the Jaguars and sometimes that’s all you need to get your confidence back. I think there’s a chance that maybe it is back. On top of that, Chark is sort of playing for a job at this point and he’s shown that he loves Detroit. So he needs to prove he should stay.

On defense it’s Kerby Joseph. The rookie safety has come on strong since taking over the starting job after Tracy Walker went down with a season-ending injury. He’s forced five turnovers in his nine starts. He’s still a rookie and he still has some growing pains, but he’s a guy that is pretty good at finding the ball and finding a way to get that ball.

5) Our friends at the DraftKings Sportsbook have given this game the highest over/under total of the week, with the number currently sitting at 51 points. Do you think these two teams can hit that number in this one?

No question about it. This should be a pretty high-scoring game for both teams. It’s going to be a shootout type of thing. Ultimately, I think the Lions come out on top this time with a score of 38-35 and make the Vikings wait one more week to get that hat and t-shirt.

Thanks again to Mike for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions for this week.