DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 23:  The Minnesota defensive line waits for the ball to be snapped during game action between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions on November 23, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 23: The Minnesota defensive line waits for the ball to be snapped during game action between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions on November 23, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Vikings and Lions are both teams that play in the NFC North, but they appear to be franchises that are heading in different directions.

The Lions came into last week with a good shot at improving to 4-3 with a home matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on the docket. Instead, they failed to protect their home den and fell to the visitors 28-14. Following the game, the Lions dealt one of their best players, Golden Tate, at the trade deadline, indicating they might be waving the white flag for this season.

The Vikings also lost at home in Week 8 but their defeat came at the gloved hands of the New Orleans Saints, one of the best teams in the NFL, not the mediocre Seahawks. The Vikings stood pat at the deadline but are adding an impact player to their roster as star running back Dalvin Cook is expected back this week after missing extended time with a hamstring injury.

With the departure of Tate in Detroit and the addition of Cook in Minnesota, it certainly seems as if the Lions are poised to tumble in the standing while the Vikings are ready to rise.

This week, when the Lions travel to Minnesota as five-point underdogs, will be the first opportunity to see if that scenario plays out.

With a projected over/under number of 49, Vegas sees this game as having a good deal of offense but not an overwhelming amount. That’s likely at least partially because Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs is questionable to suit up which would be a big blow to Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrate a score.. (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If Diggs sits, Adam Thielen should be a focal point of the offense and will have an excellent shot of extending his five-game streak of having at least 100 yards receiving and a receiving touchdown. And, if both are healthy, that might prove too much for the Lions to handle in a tough road matchup.

At least that’s how pro handicapper Dave Michaels of SportsInformationTraders sees it.

“The Vikings come into the matchup having covered the spread at home only once since Week 1, while the Lions come in hobbling after dropping last week’s game and then trading their best wide receiver in Tate days later,” Michaels said.

By trading Tate, the Lions may have been signaling their intention to turn into a run-first team based around running back Kerryon Johnson with outside receivers Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay balancing things out as vertical threats. However, if the Vikings can take advantage of the Lions’ secondary with their talented receiving corps, Detroit may be forced to abandon that plan.

“The Vikings have the best 1-2 combo in the NFL at wide receiver [in Diggs and Thielen]. I like them to air it out early in an effort to make the Lions turn one dimensional by playing catch-up the rest of the way,” Michaels said. “Matthew Stanford was put in the same situation last week and had three turnovers.”

Should that happen again and the Vikings take an early lead, that should be enough to allow them to push their record to 5-3-1.

“The Vikings defense is stout across the board, and the team needs this win at home if they are realistically thinking about making the playoffs this season,” Michael said. “I like the Vikings to get it done at home by at least 10 points, putting points on the board early and managing the game in the second half.”

Michaels is now 3-4-1 on the season with his picks after taking the Lions to beat the Seahawks by more than three points at home in Detroit. The Lions didn’t cover and the lost the game outright (as noted above).

Things have a good chance of getting back on track this week in ‘Sota.