MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings head to Ford Field Sunday to take on the Detroit Lions with the two teams heading in opposite directions with six regular season games to play.
The Vikings had a two-game win streak snapped after last Sunday’s 34-26 loss at the 49ers, but they’re still firmly in the NFC Playoff conversation and can improve to 3-0 in the NFC North with a win at Detroit. The Lions are 0-10-1, with their only non-loss being a 16-16 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.
After the Lions lost their first eight games by an average of nearly 14 points, their last two have come by just 2.5 points in Year 1 under Dan Campbell.
"They’re not having a good season, but they’re not going to give up. They really want to spoil our chance of getting in the playoffs, so we’ve really got to hone in and treat this game like it’s a playoff game," defensive back Bashaud Breeland said.
You don’t need to remind the Vikings that back in Week 5, they nearly lost to the Lions. Detroit scored a late touchdown and got a two-point conversion to take a 17-16 lead. Kirk Cousins needed to lead the offense back in the closing seconds for a game-winning field goal.
And they’re coming off a loss.
"We’ve got to get this bad taste out of our mouth from the San Francisco game. It’s a reminder of how one play can be the difference in a win or a loss," Cousins said. "The sense of urgency and how we prepare this week needs to show up relative to how that game went."
"You can’t really look at the record because they’ve had so many close games. We had to come back in the two-minute drill to beat them. They’re playing really good," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
HARRISON SMITH TALKS RETURNING FROM COVID-19
Safety Harrison Smith spoke Wednesday for the first time since missing two games after testing positive for COVID-19. Smith tested positive the morning of the Vikings’ loss at the Baltimore Ravens. He also missed the team’s win at the L.A. Chargers, having to sit out at least 10 days in following NFL protocols for non-vaccinated players.
It’s the first time in his career he’s missed games for non-injury reasons.
"I’ve never been not injured and not around, so it was definitely a different feeling," Smith said. "It’s weird when you feel healthy and you don’t play. But I get it, that’s how the virus works."
Smith had to travel back to the Twin Cities separately from the team. The Wilf family that owns the Vikings arranged a plane for Smith. Smith said he never felt symptoms, other than having a slightly dull taste. He said back in the offseason he is not vaccinated, and from his comments Wednesday, it doesn’t sound like that’s changing.
"I felt fine the whole time," Smith said. "Just trying to wear the masks and do things how we’re asked to do, that’s all you can do."
MICHAEL PIERCE RETURNS TO PRACTICE
The Vikings on Wednesday activated Michael Pierce with a designation to return to practice. Pierce was on injured reserve with a bad elbow, and has missed the Vikings’ last seven games. He was on the field Wednesday at TCO Performance Center as the team started preparations for the Lions with a walk-through,
The Vikings had five players who did not participate. They were Anthony Barr, who had a sleeve on his right leg after injuring his hamstring in Sunday's loss. Also not practicing were Dalvin Cook (shoulder), Cam Bynum (ankle), Ryan Connelly (quadriceps) and Christian Darrisaw.
Mackensie Alexander, Eric Kendricks, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Vigil and Armon Watts were all limited participants.
"We do have some older players we have to take care of. They’ve been emptying their buckets for me and for them each and every week. I’m trying to take care of them so they can do that again on Sunday," Zimmer said.