MINNEAPOLIS - The NFC North is under Minnesota's control as the second half of the season starts, and the Vikings have begun to gaze toward bigger goals.
"They had a taste of the playoffs last year," coach Brad Childress said. "It's no secret that the people with the best record in your conference are able to play at home as long as they can. So it's just important that we continue to play well."
Even against the Detroit Lions.
"Really a nameless, faceless opponent," Childress said. "We just need to worry about what we need to do to get ready."
Especially against the Lions.
"They're in a lot of games," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "They just can't finish at the end, so we have to stay true to our game plan and put the game away early."
Last year at the Metrodome, a Detroit team that became the NFL's first to lose all 16 games led in the closing minutes before a field goal gave Minnesota a 12-10 victory. The Vikings didn't have Brett Favre at quarterback then, but Gus Frerotte actually passed for 296 yards in that game despite the struggles that were so glaring fans started chanting for Childress to be fired.
The Lions have lost 11 straight games at Minnesota and 18 of their last 20 overall against the Vikings. In six of those 11 consecutive road defeats to Minnesota, Detroit has come within seven points or less.
Last year's loss even took a questionable pass interference penalty at the end to set up the winning kick.
"That one stung," wide receiver Calvin Johnson said. "That was history right there."
The Lions (1-7) zapped the zero from their record early, beating the woeful Washington Redskins 19-14 in Week 3 to silence the speculation about another full season of futility. They played Pittsburgh close, losing 28-20, and the Steelers are the only team to beat the Vikings (7-1) so far. They led Seattle 17-0 in the first quarter last week before the Seahawks intercepted rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford five times and surged back for a 32-20 victory.
In Week 2 in Detroit, they were up on Minnesota 10-0 early and didn't lose the lead until midway through the third quarter on the way to a 27-13 defeat.
"That grabbed my attention," Childress said.
So even with a betting line that reached a whopping 16 1/2 points in favor of the Vikings this week and a Lions team that familiarly ranks at or near the bottom in so many statistical categories, it wouldn't be such a shock if today's game was not the blowout the talent level of the two teams suggests it should be.
Detroit has dropped 30 of 32 regular-season games.
"I'm certainly not discouraged, but there hasn't been a whole lot of encouraging either," coach Jim Schwartz said. "I think the best word is determined."44.97903 -93.26493
The NFC North is under Minnesota's control as the second half of the season starts, and the Vikings have begun to gaze toward bigger goals.