Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 9/29/12
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. The Minnesota Vikings challenged themselves prior to last week's game against the San Francisco 49ers and came through with the biggest win for the team since the team made it to the NFC Championship game in 2010.Now, the Vikings' challenge is coping with handling success and continuing the momentum gained from last week's win."Talked about that, for sure, and what we have to get done, how important this week was from a preparation standpoint and how we needed to prepare so now we have to go out and play well," coach Leslie Frazier said about talking with his team about handling success.Minnesota (2-1) has a chance to build on last week's performance as it heads to Detroit this weekend to face the 1-2 Lions on Sunday. Here are five things to watch as the Vikings play their first game within their division this week: 1. Can Minnesota end its NFC North slide?It's been a long time since the Vikings enjoyed any success in their own division. In fact, the last NFC North win was at home against Detroit in Week 3 of 2010, a span of 11 games. It's the second-longest current streak in the NFL. Only the Cleveland Browns, who got an early jump on Minnesota by losing to Baltimore on Thursday night, has gone winless in their own division longer with a as 12-game losing streak. The Vikings were swept within the division last year and were 0-5 in 2010 following the win against the Lions. The last road win in the NFC North for Minnesota was in 2009 on the road against the Green Bay Packers.Quarterback Christian Ponder was well aware of the streak. Running back Adrian Peterson said he didn't know, but now that he does he wants to end it. Coach Leslie Frazier has talked about the importance of winning games in the division, and the two-game swing that goes along with it. Sunday will be the Vikings last chance for an NFC North win for a while too, as their next division game isn't until Week 10 at home against the Lions. Five of the final seven games this season are in the NFC North. 2. Can Minnesota protect Ponder?Like the Vikings, Detroit's defense starts with its front four. The Lions rely on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril to stop the run and rush the passer. The fourth starter on the line, Corey Williams, had knee surgery Tuesday and will miss Sunday's game. He'll be replaced by Sammie Hill and Nick Fairley. The defensive line was responsible for all seven of Detroit's sacks in the first two games. But last week's loss to the Tennessee Titans was a different story. The Lions had no sacks and only one quarterback hit while Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker threw the ball 42 times. Meanwhile, going up against San Francisco's defense with pass rushers like Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, Ponder wasn't sacked behind Minnesota's remade offensive line. If Ponder has time to throw Sunday, he very well could continue his strong play and post another 100-plus quarterback rating and 70 percent-plus completion rate. 3. Is Chris Cook up to the task of covering Calvin Johnson?Cook, the Vikings' 6-foot-2 cornerback, says he relishes the chance to go up against Detroit's 6-foot-5 receiver Calvin Johnson, the league's toughest receiver to cover. Each had their share of highlights in last year's first game between the two teams when Cook was in the lineup, but Johnson had the last laugh with two touchdowns in a comeback win by the Lions. Perhaps Cook's best game in the NFL was last year when he drew the primary assignment of guarding Johnson and rose to the occasion. He will need to do the same this week. Johnson is third in the league with 24 catches and has a league-high 396 yards receiving.This is what Cook was drafted for when he was the team's top pick in the 2010 draft. Cook has had a solid start to the season, aside from when Jacksonville's Cecil Shorts got behind Cook and made a big 39-yard touchdown catch in the final minute of regulation in the season opener, but Cook was also supposed to have help on the play as well. Cook will need help against Johnson at times, but if he can slow down Detroit's best receiver, it will be a big step in a possible Vikings' win. 4. What impact does Jerome Simpson have in his first regular-season game with Minnesota?Everyone has been eager to see Jerome Simpson back in a Vikings' uniform after his three-game suspension to start the season. Simpson was signed in the offseason to be a speed threat that can challenge defenses down the field, something Minnesota has done very little of the first three weeks. Simpson has the speed and athletic ability to make defenses pay if they choose to commit too many players in stopping Peterson, receiver Percy Harvin or tight end Kyle Rudolph.Simpson is coming off his best season in the NFL last year with the Cincinnati Bengals when he averaged 14.5 yards-per-catch, with 50 catches for 725 yards. Everyone, especially Simpson, has been eager to get him back in the lineup and add another element to the Vikings' now versatile offense. Ponder and Simpson seemed to develop a rapport quickly in minicamp and they are hoping to do the same now that Simpson has been practicing for the first time in three weeks. 5. How healthy is Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford?Detroit was playing coy with Stafford's availability early in the week after he left last week's game with an injury and backup Shaun Hill came in and threw for two touchdowns while bringing the Lions from behind to put the game in overtime. Stafford and coach Jim Schwartz avoided saying how Stafford was feeling or if he would be ready for Sunday, and Frazier said they would be preparing for Stafford and Hill.Stafford then missed Wednesday's practice and was listed with a hip injury after reports had initially said he was dealing with a hamstring injury. But as the week progressed, Stafford practiced more and appears ready to go for Sunday. He was limited in Thursday's practice and was a full participant on Friday, drawing a probable designation for Sunday. Hill has proven to be a competent backup, but Stafford is coming off a breakthrough season with over 5,000 yards passing and 41 touchdowns in leading Detroit to the playoffs last year. The Lions own the league's top passing attack this year, though Stafford's been a bit inconsistent through three games. He will play Sunday, but how much will the leg issue be bothering him and will that allow Minnesota and it's potent front four the chance to pressure Stafford. Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne


USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Avery Bradley nails buzzer beater to beat Cavs

WATCH: Jimmy Butler taken to locker room in wheel chair

Klay Thompson's first five years in historical context

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

USMNT are big favorites against Canada

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Johnny Manziel dropped by agent

Michael Irvin: Cowboys should save Manziel

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

The merits of trading Blake Griffin to the Hornets

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Could the Marlins contend in 2016?

Report: Browns to cut Manziel in March

Browns rip Manziel in statement

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker