FBG says: Great matchup. Minnesota's offense is a run-heavy attack predicated around feeding Dalvin Cook the football early and often in games. Backup Alexander Mattison's usage is typically dependent on the score of the game, seeing increased work in blowouts and very little action in close games, but Week 14 is shaping up to be one of his highest-usage games of the season. Dalvin Cook exited last game early with an apparent shoulder injury, and while head coach Mike Zimmer said he is "fine," it would not come as a surprise to see his workload decreased significantly if he is even able to play this coming weekend. The safe option would be to rest Cook, the team's number-one running back, in a game where the Vikings are heavily favored, which would immediately prime Mattison for a bell-cow-like role in Minnesota's run-heavy offense. Even if Cook does not rest, however, it makes little sense to give him his normal allotment of touches and playing time while he recovers from an injury that was enough to keep him from playing almost half of last week's Monday night showdown against the Seahawks. Expect a heavier dose of Alexander Mattison than anyone has seen yet this season here in Week 14 against the Detroit Lions.
Detroit's run defense is one of the worst in the league this season as they have faced high volume and allowed above-average efficiency on the ground. The Lions have defended the 11th-most rushing attempts in the NFL while allowing over 4.4 yards per carry, which ranks as the 15th-highest total in the league. On the season, Detroit has allowed 3 100-yard rushers, and they rank 2nd-to-last in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. This is a team with very little to play for at this point in the season, and aside from edge rusher Trey Flowers, almost the entire defense has underperformed in 2019. Along the defensive line, A'Shawn Robinson and Damon Harrison, two previously-elite run-stoppers, have tailed off and now grade as approximately average interior run-defenders this season. This regression has exposed Detroit's weakness at linebacker, where Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones both struggle against the run. Davis has already missed 10 tackles this season, displaying his struggles even when he does put himself in the right position to make a play and stop the run. Lastly, the Lions traded away safety Quandre Diggs earlier this season, one of their best run-defenders, leaving their defensive backfield exposed if and when running backs breakthrough to the second and third levels. Overall, Detroit's weak run defense will likely struggle to shut down Minnesota's high-volume and high-efficiency rushing attack, regardless of whether it is Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison carrying the football for the Vikings. If Cook is unable to play this weekend, Mattison will be poised for a career day on the ground against Detroit's 31st-ranked run defense.