Key players on Thanksgiving: Minnesota Vikings vs Detroit Lions

The NFC North is up for grabs in Week 12. Let’s highlight the key players in the Thanksgiving Day game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions.

The Detroit Lions hold the smallest of leads over the Minnesota Vikings at the top of the NFC North. The only thing separating them to this point is a November 6 victory for the Lions over the Vikings. After the week 12 match-up between the two teams, the NFC North playoff picture will be a lot more clear.

The Lions are coming off a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 11. For the 10th time this season, Detroit was losing in the 4th quarter. Just like they’ve done 5 other times this season, they came back to get the victory.

The Vikings are coming off a victory over the Arizona Cardinals in week 11. This win ended a 4-game losing streak for the team that was the last to have a loss in the NFL. Minnesota can’t afford many more losses if they want to be contenders this year.

With that being said, let’s go over the key players in this Turkey Day match-up starting with the man who will be throwing the football for the Minnesota Vikings.

Nov 20, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) throws during the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford

It all begins at the quarterback position for both teams. Sam Bradford has given the Vikings more than what they bargained for when they traded for him just a few weeks before the NFL season. Can he come through with a victory to put the Vikings into the top spot in the NFC North late in the season?

Bradford has been efficient this year, but not much more than that. He has avoided mistakes as much as possible and moved the ball, in short measures, very well. The only thing that is keeping him from being a great quarterback is lack of big plays.

If the Vikings want to win this Thanksgiving Day game, they will need some big plays from the arm of Sam Bradford. The offensive line will have to hold up for him, but he will have to be accurate in throwing the ball downfield. The offense runs through Bradford, and they need a big day from him to come out victorious.

Nov 6, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Lions defeated the Vikings 22-16. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Rudolph

The Vikings have had a hard time getting efficient results from their tight end lately. Kyle Rudolph, for the longest time, was the Vikings’ biggest red zone threat. Anymore, it seems as if he disappears on any play in which he’s not blocking.

Kyle Rudolph is a veteran on this young Vikings team, and his leadership is not in question. His statistics as of late are, though. Whether it’s just Bradford not targeting him or Rudolph’s inability to get open, the tight end has not been efficient lately.

To come out victorious this Thanksgiving, the Vikings need more production from Kyle Rudolph. They need to be able to depend on him when they get to the red zone, instead of having to settle for field goals, which have been iffy all season long. Getting touchdowns during red zone visits instead of field goals could be the difference in this game.

Nov 20, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) sacks Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) on fourth down late in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Danielle Hunter

The Vikings’ pass rush has been the main bright spot for this year’s team. With studs like Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, young Danielle Hunter has been the man to really shine. Hunter feasted on Carson Palmer in week 11; the Vikes would love the same production from him on Thanksgiving Day.

The season started with Danielle Hunter only seeing a certain amount of snaps per game. Everyone knew his name after his touchdown against the Titans in week 1. Now, week 12, he is looking like a real pro-bowler.

The Minnesota Vikings need to get a lot of pressure on Matthew Stafford, and it all begins with Danielle Hunter. If Hunter plays well, the whole front 7 plays well. The Vikings need him to get to the quarterback early and often so the defense can truly find success. He doesn’t have to get two sacks again, just hitting and putting a lot of pressure on Matthew Stafford could change the entire game.

Oct 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) looks on against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Giants 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

 Harrison Smith

Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the NFL, and he’s proving it again this year. He has been brilliant most of the season at deleting the big plays for opposing teams. He flies around the field like a hawk and the kid also packs a punch.

Smith leads all Vikings with 73 total tackles. Add on 2 sacks and you see why he is considered one of the top defenders in the league. He proves his intelligence of the game week in and week out.

On November 6, the Lions killed the Vikings with big plays. If the big plays are eliminated, the Vikings win the game. In the week 12 rematch, Harrison Smith will need to help to stop those big plays.

Expect Smith to play with some fire in his eyes, extracting revenge on the NFC North rival. He is a the leader of this secondary, and the Vikings need him to step up in a big way on Thanksgiving.

In conclusion, the Vikings need success from their passing game and pass rush defense. If Sam Bradford can add his tight end to his list of weapons, expect him to find a lot of success. If the Vikes’ front 7 can get a lot of pressure on Matthew Stafford, expect some mistakes by him. In comes Harrison Smith, who could take advantage of those mistakes. Let’s take over the NFC North!

#SKOL

This article originally appeared on