Minnesota Vikings defense could be short-handed at Detroit Sunday

Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings watches his team warm up before a preseason game against the Denver Broncos at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings head to Detroit Sunday to face a winless Lions team and improve to 3-0 in the NFC North Division.

It’s a pivotal game after losing NFC Playoff positioning in Sunday’s 34-26 loss at the 49ers. The Vikings are now in the eighth spot in the NFC, and the top seven teams make the playoffs. Mike Zimmer and his defense could be without as many as six regular starters on Sunday at Ford Field.

The Vikings were without their entire starting defensive line in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Danielle Hunter is out for the season with a torn pec, Michael Pierce is on injured reserve with a bad elbow. Dalvin Tomlinson is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Everson Griffen is away from the team to address concerns for his mental health after an incident at his Minnetrista home.

With a defensive line consisting of Sheldon Richardson, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch and Armon Watts, the 49ers ran for 208 yards and 5.3 yards per carry.

The Vikings also lost Anthony Barr to an apparent hamstring injury in the third quarter Sunday, and he did not return to the game. Barr has dealt with a lingering knee issue that forced him to miss the first four games of the season. Safety Cam Bynum, who has played well in recent weeks, missed Sunday’s game with an injury.

"We’re pretty decimated on defense right now. We’ve just got to keep doing what we can do to try to help these players out. It’s part of today’s NFL," Zimmer said Monday. 

In the secondary, the Vikings could be without Patrick Peterson on Sunday after the veteran defensive back was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. Peterson is vaccinated, and could return if he has consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart.

The Vikings are 5-6, just like they were last year after 11 games. Minnesota’s next three games are at Detroit, hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers for Thursday Night Football and traveling to Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.

The Vikings have had 10 of their 11 games this season end within one possession, or come down to the final play. For that very reason, Zimmer remains optimistic the Vikings can fight for a playoff spot.

"I feel a lot different about this team than I did at this time a year ago. They’ve shown that they have a lot of heart and fight. We’ve basically been in every ballgame, so we’ll just play it out and see how it goes," Zimmer said.

We’ll get a better idea of who could be available against the Lions when the Vikings hold their first practice on Wednesday at TCO Performance Center.