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For the second straight year, the Minnesota Vikings (8-2) and Detroit Lions (6-4) will face off on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, a late Sam Bradford interception set up a Matt Prater game-winning field goal, giving the Lions a 16-13 victory. The Vikings will be looking to avenge more than that game, though.

In week four, the Lions defeated the Vikings 14-7, giving Detroit a three-game winning streak over Minnesota. The Vikings haven’t lost since, though, winning six straight, including a 24-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams (7-3) on Sunday. The Lions, 3-1 after the first meeting, have been up and down since, but are riding their own three-game win streak into Thursday, beating the Chicago Bears 27-24 on Sunday.

While these two teams are much different this time around, they both share a same common goal: win the NFC North. A Lions victory would place them a game behind the Vikings with five games to go and give them ownership of the head-to-head tiebreaker that would be the difference between a home and away playoff game. A Vikings victory would place Minnesota three games ahead in the division, and they would be able to set their sights on playing for a first-round bye week in the playoffs. In what will sure to be an entertaining game, let’s look at three keys to victory for the Vikings, with a bit of a Thanksgiving twist.

Week 12 Minnesota Vikings Keys to Victory

A Hearty Main Dish

A Thanksgiving dinner features many different foods and treats. Some families prefer ham, while others will go with roast beef. But when most people set up their Thanksgiving dinner, all of the sides and desserts on the menu will compliment the turkey. While the Vikings rank fifth in both total offense and defense (the only team in the league to rank in the top five of both categories), their defense is still the team’s identity, complimented by an efficient offense and disciplined special teams.

Minnesota’s defense had their best showing of the season on Sunday, holding a Rams offense that entered the game averaging 32.9 points per game to only seven points. The Rams got their lone score on the opening drive of the game as the Vikings stifled the high-powered offense to only 254 total yards. Carrying that performance over to Thursday isn’t very far-fetched either.

When Detroit and Minnesota faced off in week four, the Lions only gained 251 yards of total offense. The Vikings pass rush was all over Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, sacking him six times and leaving the league’s highest-paid player bruised and beaten up in victory. And while former Lions backup tackle Greg Robinson will not be facing Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen this time around (starter Taylor Decker is back in the lineup), Detroit’s offense still only ranks 16th in the NFL, averaging just over 338 yards a game. If Minnesota repeats their week four performance on Thursday, it will be a long day for Stafford and the Lions.

A Complimentary Side Dish

Whether it’s mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, or grandma’s green bean casserole, a Thanksgiving dinner is nothing without a delicious side that compliments a well-cooked turkey. And in the NFL, a championship-caliber defense can only go so far without an offense that can hold its own.

For the first time in coach Mike Zimmer’s four-year tenure, the Vikings finally have an offensive attack that can compliment its defense. The team is averaging over 372 yards per game with veteran backup quarterback Case Keenum dishing passes out, who has thrown for 12 touchdowns against only five interceptions. His main target has been receiver Adam Thielen, who enters Thursday’s game with 62 catches for 916 yards and three touchdowns. And even with rookie running back Dalvin Cook sidelined for the year, the Vikings still rank eighth in the league in rushing offense, splitting carries between bruiser Latavius Murray and speedy Jerick McKinnon.

The offense gets a favorable matchup against Detroit, who ranks 23rd in the league in total defense, giving up over 354 yards per game. In Sunday’s win over the Bears, the Lions gave up 398 yards of offense to a Chicago team with a rookie quarterback and questionable surrounding talent. If the Vikings can keep a balanced offensive attack and help out their defense, they will be able to control the game.

Being Smart with Dessert

After finishing off the main course, family members look to take advantage of dessert. While maybe being full from turkey and mashed potatoes, everyone knows that there is a small window to get into a popular dessert. People that postpone their trip to the dessert table may come back later to see that their opportunity passed them by, as the apple turnovers that grandma made are all but gone, and that they won’t appear until next year.

Even though football is a game of matchups on offense and defense, often the difference comes down which team takes advantage of opportunities to turn the ball back over to their offense. When the two teams faced off in week four, the Vikings lost three fumbles that led to 11 points. On the other side of the ball, the Lions avoided turning the ball over, but not without giving the Vikings chances. Minnesota’s defense got their hands on several Matthew Stafford passes, but failed to bring any in.

The Lions enter Thanksgiving Day tied for fifth in turnover differential at +7. Minnesota is tied for 13th but is still at a +2 differential. The Lions have turned the ball over two more times than the Vikings, though, so Minnesota will have, albeit probably limited, chances to get the ball. The same can be said about the Vikings offense, though, as Keenum has had a tendency to be a bit of a gunslinger and throw some wild passes up in the air. Luckily for Keenum, his receivers have come down with most of these passes, but Detroit will have chances. And in a divisional game where both teams know each other, a wild pass could be the difference.

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