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What the Vikings are saying

Every week during the regular season we get an opportunity to talk with the opposing head coach via conference call. This week it was Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. I also scanned the Minnesota area media websites and the Vikings website, to see what else the Vikings players and coaches are saying about this week’s matchup with the Lions.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. This is an important month for the Vikings and Lions, as both teams play three division games in the month of November. The Lions play Minnesota and two games against Chicago. The Vikings play all three teams in the division the next three weeks.

“I love division games,” guard Tom Compton told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. “They’re a lot more intense and they definitely mean a little more, so we’ve just got to get on our things and get ready to go.

“It’s still a little early to tell who’s kind of the top dog (in the NFC North), but I think after (November), you’ll kind of get a good idea.”

2. Zimmer admitted that former Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, who was traded to Philadelphia on Tuesday, always seemed to give his defense problems. The news obviously changed the Vikings’ game plan this week. They are now preparing for anyone and everyone in the slot.

3. Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr, who’missed last week’s game vs. New Orleans due to a hamstring injury, didn’t know if he’d be ready to return this week against the Lions.

“We’ll see,” he told the team’s website. “When I’m ready, I’m ready.”

Minnesota was missing six starters (three on each side of the ball) last week vs. New Orleans. Zimmer expects that some of those names will be back in the lineup this week, but wouldn’t specify which ones.

4. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins played against Damon Harrison a lot when he was with Washington and Harrison was in New York with the Giants. Cousins said the one thing about Harrison is that he always finds a way to make an impact on the game. He expects the same thing from him Sunday in Minnesota.

5. Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen returned to the Vikings’ lineup last week after missing a month for mental health reasons. Griffen had just a single tackle in 37 snaps, but Zimmer said it’s hard to take a month off and be back in football shape. Expect him to be more impactful this week.

6. Size and physicality are the two big differences Zimmer notices with the Lions’ new defense. It will be the first time Minnesota’s played Detroit’s new-look defense since Matt Patricia became head coach. He echoed Cousins’ statements on Harrison in the middle of the defense, and how he makes an impact in terms of the space and seams available to the running backs.

7. Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes was asked about Detroit’s improved run game, and was impressed by rookie running back Kerryon Johnson. Rhodes said if the Lions are able to establish a run game Sunday, then it makes receivers like Marvin Jones Jr. so much more dangerous. He said the plan is to stop the run and play Jones and the rest of the Lions receivers tight.

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