DETROIT LIONS (2-1) AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-1)
SERIES HISTORY: 112th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead, 71-38-2. However, the Lions swept the season series last year, which marked their second sweep over the Vikings in the past three years.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Lions settled for too many field goals last week in a narrow loss against the Atlanta Falcons, and they must do a better job getting in the end zone against a Vikings team that has one of the best defenses in the NFL. That means protecting Matthew Stafford against a good Vikings pass rush and eliminating some of the foolish penalties that have hurt the team so far. Wide receiver Golden Tate had 16 catches in two games against the Vikings last year, so he could be in for a big day.
Defensively, the Lions have been great at creating turnovers - eight so far this year - but the Vikings take good care of the football with only one giveaway. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook has at least 137 yards from scrimmage in the Vikings' two wins. Whether injured quarterback Sam Bradford returns as the starter or Case Keenum makes his third straight start, the game will be won or lost based on how well the Vikings' offensive line plays. It needs to continue running the ball with authority.
The Vikings' run defense ranks third, which is the highest it's ever ranked under coach Mike Zimmer. They'll need to set the tempo early with that run defense because Detroit is running the ball better than it has in a long time, ranking 17th in the league.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Lions LT Greg Robinson vs. Vikings DE Everson Griffen. Robinson continues to hold down the left tackle spot while the Lions await Taylor Decker's return, but he's had his share of struggles the first three weeks. Robinson especially has issues with power moves, and in Griffen he faces an accomplished pass rusher who has four sacks in three games so far this year.
--Vikings LT Riley Reiff, vs. Lions RDE Ezekiel Ansah, who had all three of his team-high sacks against the Giants on Monday Night Football two weeks ago. Reiff, who left the Lions for Minnesota in free agency this past offseason, has been a key piece to a revamped line that has been a major upgrade through three games. Ansah has five sacks in eight games against the Vikings, including 2.5 against Teddy Bridgewater in a 17-3 win in 2014.
--Out: G Zac Kerin (knee), RB Dwayne Washington (quadricep)
--Questionable: DE Ezekiel Ansah (knee), S Don Carey (knee), LB Jarrad Davis (concussion, neck), WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), C Travis Swanson (ankle), S Tavon Wilson (shoulder)
--Out: QB Sam Bradford (knee)
--Questionable: T Rashod Hill (knee)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings RB Dalvin Cook: Cook was supposed to share the spotlight with veteran RB Latavius Murray. But Cook has been too good to sit, while Murray remains behind the curve after missing most of training camp because of offseason ankle surgery. Cook had 169 yards from scrimmage in the rout of Tampa Bay. His 72 receiving yards marked a season-high, not to mention a total that his predecessor, Adrian Peterson, has exceeded only two times in 11 seasons.
FAST FACTS: Lions QB Matthew Stafford has thrown at least two touchdown passes in six of his past seven road games against NFC North opponents. He will try to make it seven-for-eight on Sunday. ... Vikings WR Stefon Diggs is coming off his third career multiple-touchdown performance. Diggs hauled in two touchdown passes last week against Tampa Bay. ... Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah is aiming to record a sack in his fourth consecutive road game. Ansah has 4 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles in his past six games. ... Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph has a touchdown catch in each of his past three home games against Detroit.
PREDICTION: The Lions will channel their frustrations from last week's loss and turn them into a positive this weekend. Look for Stafford to lead his teammates to an important early-season conference victory.
OUR PICK: Lions, 28-24.