Vikings begin preparations for crucial stretch of NFC North games

Sunday’s is a crucial matchup for the Vikings at the midway point of the season.

The Vikings have only played one divisional game so far this season, meaning five of their remaining eight opponents will be teams from the NFC North and that stretch begins this Sunday against the Lions.

Sunday’s matchup is against an all too familiar opponent and while the Lions are no strangers to Minnesota, back in the day they were also a familiar sight in the Cousins household in Michigan.

“I didn’t grow up a Lions fan but they were on TV every Sunday afternoon and all of my community back home, they’re all Lions fans so it is a special moment in that sense,” Cousins said Wednesday.

With just one game separating first and last place in the NFC North, Sunday’s divisional showdown carries extra weight both figuratively, and in the case of the Lions defensive front, literally.

“They’re stout and physical up front. They’re very stout and physical and they, they’ve given up some runs but there’s a lot of no gainers in there too. They’re very physical and we’re going to have to stick with it, we’re going to have to keep pounding, keep fighting,” said Coach Mike Zimmer. 

One difference fans may notice about the Lions this year is it appears they’ve finally found a formula for success on the ground.

Rookie tailback Kerryon Johnson is a big reason for the sudden surge as he's averaging over six yards per carry and the Vikings say slowing Johnson down will be a top priority.

“He’s been running the ball extremely effective. I’m not sure it’s changed the run game all that much. I mean, there’s a lot of similar runs they’ve had in the past but they’re much more effective at it,” Zimmer said.

“They’ve just been trying to establish the run a lot lately and once they establish the run, we have to look out for Marvin Jones and he’s a guy, as we see, he’s been the guy, deep threat guy. We basically have to be on top of him, tight coverage,” Vikings Defensive Back Xavier Rhodes said.  

Rhodes did not play in last Sunday’s game against the Saints but he was back on the practice field this afternoon as a limited participant.

Anthony Barr and Stefon Diggs did not participate in Wednesday’s practice session.