Playoff Implications Loom Large Over Thanksgiving Game in Detroit

One of the most memorable games in the hearts of Vikings fans old enough to remember was the 1998 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.  It was the nation’s first real glimpse of the budding superstar in Randy Moss, who finished the game with only three catches, but made each one count as they all went for long touchdowns.

This Thursday’s game against the Detroit Lions will be the first Thanksgiving game for the Vikings since that ’98 blowout.  Fans across Minnesota will be hoping for a similar result with the NFC North Division title hanging in the balance.

Stopping Matthew Stafford

Last Thanksgiving, Stafford put on a quarterbacking clinic against the Philadelphia Eagles, passing for 337 yards and a whopping five touchdowns en route to earning the “coveted” Galloping Gobbler Award as the most valuable player of the game.

This Thanksgiving, the Vikings will provide Stafford with a tougher test than the Eagles presented him last year.  That being said it could be argued that the Lions offense has been running smoother this season than in year’s past, and Stafford is playing some of the best football of his career despite not having his favorite target in newly retired Calvin Johnson.

Thursday’s game will all boil down to containing Stafford, and it can only be done with an effective pass-rush from the start of the game all the way to the end.  This is far from an easy task as Stafford has one of the quickest releases in the NFL, which puts added pressure on the defensive backs to blanket the Lions receivers long enough for guys like Everson Griffen and Brian Robison to reach Stafford.  If the corners and safeties can stay with their man in coverage, things become a whole lot easier for the guys up front rushing the quarterback.

Get Diggs going 

After setting an NFL record in weeks nine and ten hauling in 13 receptions in back to back games, Diggs cooled off a bit in last Sunday’s game as a result of being matched up with one of the best corners in the league in Patrick Peterson.  This week Diggs will have an easier assignment and should be the focal point of the offense in Thursday’s game.

If the Lions decide to key in on Diggs by providing safety help over the top, Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson will likely be the ones who reap the benefits and do most of the damage on offense.  This is by no means an embarrassment of riches like the Vikings had in ’98 with Moss, Cris Carter, and Jake Reed, but the new three are more than capable of getting the job done when their number is dialed up.

Play turnover-free football

A huge factor in the Vikings 5-0 start to the season was ball security as they did not commit a single turnover in that five game stretch.  In the following week against the Eagles, the Vikings turned the ball over four times, which led to their first loss of the 2016 season.

The Vikings are currently 6-2 in games where they do not give up a turnover.  They are 0-2 in games where they do.  This makes the goal of not turning the ball over a crucial one as the Vikings have proven that they simply cannot regain momentum once a turnover is committed.

If the Vikings play turnover-free football and create some turnovers of their own, I like their chances of coming out of Ford Field with a win.

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