5 bold Minnesota Vikings predictions for Week 16 vs. the Detroit Lions

Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler / David Berding/GettyImages
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The Minnesota Vikings will play the Detroit Lions for the first time this season when they host their annual “Winter Whiteout” game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon. While the atmosphere should be as great as last year’s last-second win over the New York Giants, the game will also carry major ramifications in the NFC playoff picture.

The Vikings come into Sunday’s game with a 7-7 record and holding onto the sixth seed in the NFC. After losing three of their past four games after a five-game winning streak, Minnesota will need to win two of their final three games to reach the playoffs for the second straight year.

That means the Vikings will have to pick up at least one win against the Lions, who they’ll play again in Detroit in the final week of the regular season.

The Lions are looking for their first division championship since winning the NFC Central division in 1993 and just need one win in their final three games to clinch their first division crown in the NFC North era.

With two games in the final three weeks – and a potential third meeting in the playoffs – Sunday’s game carries a lot of weight, but here are five bold predictions to see if Minnesota can keep their playoff hopes alive.

1. The Lions will pressure Nick Mullens on 50 percent of his dropbacks

The Vikings' offensive line has had one of its best years over the past decade, but they’ll have to keep it up against the Lions’ refocused defensive line.

Detroit’s defense has been slumping over the past couple of weeks and ranks 23rd in points allowed (331) and 18th in yards allowed this season. While Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, James Houston, and others are trending to return for a playoff run, the Lions will have to formulate a plan to get to the quarterback and pressure Nick Mullens.

The good news for Minnesota is that their offensive line continues to play well after losing right tackle Brian O’Neill to an ankle injury in Week 14.

In last week’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Mullens was only pressured on 31.6 percent of his dropbacks (21st among qualifying quarterbacks), and star Bengals pass rusher Trey Hendrickson recorded just two pressures on 23 pass-rushing snaps, according to PFF.

While that’s great, the Lions looked like a different team in last week’s win over the Denver Broncos. Detroit pressured Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson on 51.4 percent of his dropbacks and sent several blitzes along with young players Itfeatu Melifonwu and Josh Paschal to disrupt Sean Payton’s offense.

With Aiden Hutchinson also looming, the Vikings will have their hands full trying to keep their passing game on schedule. If not, it could be a long day for Mullens and the rest of the Minnesota offense.