Let's take a look at a key matchup when the Vikings face the Lions in Week 17:
Vikings DE Jared Allen vs. Lions OLT Jeff Backus
Allen was in an early slump this season when the two teams faced in Week Three, and Allen did next to nothing in the game. He looked slow on his pass-rush get-off, was getting pushed around in the run game and didn't have any juice in his legs. Allen stays on the field most of the game, and the thinking was that his years of stamina were coming back to bite him. But in the past few games, Allen has re-emerged with some force. The zip is back in his first step, and he appears to be playing with more anger and force. Perhaps losing has something to do with it, or maybe Leslie Frazier has reignited Allen.
Backus has had a quietly stout season, allowing only 3½ sacks and committing three penalties, both far lower than he has given up the past few seasons. The Lions tend to give more blocking help to the right side, especially now that ORT Gosder Cherilus is out of the lineup, replaced by Corey Hilliard. And when they were matched up one-on-one in the first meeting, Backus got the best of Allen more often than not. Backus' play hasn't fallen off much late in the year, but he'll be facing a better version of Allen in Week 17.