The Minnesota Vikings (6-9) and Detroit Lions (5-10) look to close out disappointing seasons on Sunday afternoon. In Week 16, both teams allowed at least 47 points in embarrassing losses. Minnesota won the Week 9 meeting against Detroit by a score of 34-20.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
Sunday, January 3, 2021 – 01:00 PM EDT at Ford Field
Whether Matthew Stafford plays for the Lions ever again is in question as multiple injuries leave his status up in the air for this season finale. Regardless, the Vikings are a 6.5-point favorite at most NFL betting sites.
Vikings: Stuck in Purgatory
If Minnesota wins this game, Kirk Cousins will be a most fitting 51-51-2 as a starter in the regular season. For someone with six seasons of consistent, solid passing production, his play is somehow still erratic enough to ensure that his teams never stray too far from .500.
This season the Vikings started 1-5 with the defense playing terrible and the offense rarely showing up until it was garbage time. After the bye week, the Vikings went on a 5-1 run with Cousins hitting the hot streak he showed in 2019 when the team made the playoffs. But after getting back to 6-6, the Vikings have lost three straight and are eliminated from the postseason. The defense hit its lowest point on Christmas when Alvin Kamara tied the NFL record with six rushing touchdowns in a 52-33 defeat to the Saints.
The loss of wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo is an easy story to explain the 2020 decline for Minnesota, but it would not be an accurate one. Not when rookie Justin Jefferson stepped in with one of the best debut seasons in NFL history with 1,267 yards. Adam Thielen still played well too, and Dalvin Cook rushed for 1,557 yards and 16 touchdowns.
This offense had the weapons but made too many mistakes to overcome one of the worst defenses in franchise history. Whether it was Cousins’ horrific game against the Colts, kicker Dan Bailey’s constant misses against Tampa Bay, or the failure to convert a short-yardage run late in Seattle, the Vikings rarely had everything clicking this season. They were fortunate to come back late to beat the Jaguars and Panthers.
Fortunately, the Vikings are drawing Detroit, the only team they beat by double digits this year and the team that has allowed the most points in 2020.
Lions: New Era Can’t Start Soon Enough
Detroit fired head coach Matt Patricia after Thanksgiving, but clearly the problems run far deeper than that. The 2020 Lions are 36 points away from allowing more points than the 2008 team that finished 0-16. Things were so bad on Saturday against Tampa Bay that Blaine Gabbert entered the game for Tom Brady in the third quarter and threw two touchdowns on his first six passes. The Lions are the first team since the 1992 Falcons to allow at least 41 points in five games in a season.
Now that 47-7 Tampa Bay loss was a unique situation due to COVID with shorthanded Detroit missing a large chunk of its coaching staff. Still, Detroit needs to clean house and find a new coaching staff for 2021.
There may also be a quarterback change as the Matthew Stafford era could come to an end. Stafford left Saturday’s game quickly with injury. He wants to play this week, but that may not be for the best for his future. The Lions could be looking at a quarterback in the draft, but they only currently have the No. 7 pick for 2021.
The Lions are not without talent. Rookie running back D’Andre Swift flashed at times, tight end T.J. Hockenson made the Pro Bowl in his second year, and they only got five games out of Kenny Golladay, their best receiver.
Stafford could even stick around for the next regime, but it may be best for both parties to call it a wrap after 12 seasons. If he does play, Stafford will try to end a five-game losing streak to the Vikings.
One of the oddest splits this season is that Detroit is 4-1 at game-winning drive opportunities but only 5-10 overall. That means when the Lions lose, they lose badly, like 41-25 to Houston on Thanksgiving, 20-0 to Carolina with an XFL quarterback starting, or that 47-7 annihilation last week against the Buccaneers.
Minnesota’s offense should have a great day in this matchup. As long as Mike Zimmer has the team ready to end the season with a good performance after getting blown out by the Saints, I would trust the Vikings to cover the spread in your NFL picks and get to a 7-9 finish.