NFL Week 4 Preview: Lions at Vikings
Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Brett Whitefield
Matchup: Detroit Lions offense vs. Minnesota Vikings defense
- T Greg Robinson vs. EDGE Everson Griffen – Like most weeks, whoever Robinson is matched up against is going to be a story. On one side Greg Robinson brings in his 70th out of 71 ranked grade of 30.5 overall and on the other Everson Griffen brings his very solid 84.9 overall grade, which ranks 11th out of 97 edge defenders. Robinson has already surrendered 14 total pressures in pass protection and has committed four penalties. He has given up at least three pressures in every game this season, while Griffen on the other hand has already tallied 14 total pressures with six of them being hits or sacks (4 sacks, 2 hits). Griffen will almost exclusively face Robinson on a snap-by-snap basis, as 140 of his 158 total snaps this season have come from the right side.
- G T.J. Lang vs. DI Linval Joseph – This defensive line vs. offensive line matchup should be more hotly contested than the one previously mentioned. The Lions hopes of running the ball effectively starts right here. Lang hasn’t skipped a beat since leaving Green Bay, grading in the top-10 positionally yet again. Currently he is the ninth-best guard, with an overall grade of 83.1. Lang has also been the Lions best run blocker, earning a run-block grade of 84.9. Joseph enters this game as one of the league’s premier run stoppers and leads defensive interior players in run stops with nine and ranks second in run-stop percentage at 18.8 percent. His overall grade of 85.8 ranks eighth out of 118 qualifiers positionally. In two games against each other last season (Lang with Packers), Lang didn’t allow a single pressure to Joseph in pass protection and also prevented him from making a stop in the run game.
- TE Eric Ebron vs. S Harrison Smith – After a very good Week 2 game against the Giants, Ebron’s play reverted back to recent standards, as he had a terrible Week 3 game grade of 35.7. His overall grade on the season now sits at 54.8 overall, which ranks just 36th among tight ends. The Lions will likely struggle using Ebron as a mismatch in this game as Smith should be tasked with covering him often. Smith continues his near elite play this season and currently holds the third-highest safety grade at 89.0 overall. On 112 cover snaps, Smith’s coverage has been targeted just five times. On those targets, he has surrendered just 19 total yards, including just five yards after the catch.
Coverage by: Elliott Rooney
Matchup: Minnesota Vikings offense vs. Detroit Lions defense
- WR Adam Thielen vs. CB Quandre Diggs – The biggest matchup on Sunday will be in the slot. Thielen currently grades as the fifth-best receiver with an overall PFF grade of 86.6, but it is in the slot where he is at his most dangerous. Thielen has ran 67 percent of his routes from the slot this season and leads the league with 192 yards and ranks fourth with 12 receptions in the slot. The man tasked with defending Thielen will be Quandre Diggs, who is the fourth-highest graded cornerback with an overall PFF grade of 86.1. Diggs has allowed six of his 12 slot targets to be caught and has given up two touchdowns, and quarterbacks have a passer rating of 108.7 when targeting Diggs in the slot, which ranks 35th among 46 cornerbacks with at least 28 slot coverage snaps.
- WR Stefon Diggs vs. CB Darius Slay – Another receiver versus corner matchup which will feature two top-graded players. Diggs leads the league among receivers with a minimum of 18 targets with a wide receiver rating 147.2. He also leads the league in receptions on deep passes with six and is second with 153 receiving yards on deep passes (a pass targeted 20 or more yards downfield). With an overall grade of 82.0, Slay ranks as the 22nd best cornerback this season, he is only giving up a passer rating of 38.9 when targeted by opposing quarterbacks. That is the sixth best rating this season and has additionally broken up a further 3 passes.
- T Riley Reiff vs. EDGE Ezekiel Ansah – Rieff will come up against a familiar face on Sunday as he faces former teammate Ezekiel Ansah. Reiff is one of 15 tackles not to allow a sack in 2017, and he is tied for 17th with a pass-blocking efficiency (PBE) of 95.8. He has only allowed six total pressures on his 108 pass-block snaps. Ansah will be a good test for Reiff on passing downs, as he ranks 13th with a pass-rush productivity (PRP) of 13.8 from the right side. He has collected eight total pressures from 49 pass-rush snaps (PRP/PBE measures pressure created/allowed on a per snap basis with weighting towards sacks).