Minnesota is back in Detroit, its home away from home, where the Vikings played when the Metrodome looked liks this. (US Presswire)

The Vikings return to their home (field) away from home, Ford Field in Detroit (they played a home game against the Giants there in 2010 when the roof of the Metrodome collapsed), to take on the Lions, but they won’t find the crowd the least bit friendly. The Lions have dropped their last two games and will be eager to feast on an NFC North Division opponent to get headed back in the right direction. A complete performance like they had last week against the 49ers will be required of the Vikings to beat the Lions on Sunday.

Contain Stafford: Whether or not Lions coach Jim Schwartz was playing possum on the injury report with his QB Matthew Stafford this week, the Vikings didn’t buy for a minute that Stafford wouldn’t play. He missed some time last Sunday against the Titans with a leg injury, but he will start Sunday and the Vikings will be ready to chase him down. Stafford is the key to making the Lions high-voltage offense run, and the Vikings defensive front will have to bring pressure on him. They have been successful at pressuring quarterbacks this season, but not as successful at getting them to the ground. Perhaps they can catch “the hobbled” Stafford.

Finding Johnson: In one of the few games that he played last season, Vikings CB Chris Cook had a good game covering Lions WR Calvin Johnson. But the problem this year will be finding Johnson. Not totally unlike how the Vikings employ Percy Harvin, the Lions use Johnson in the slot, on the outside, in the corners or the end zone, all over the field -- and like Harvin they use him very effectively. Harvin leads the league in receptions (27) and Johnson in receiving yards (369). So more defenders than just Cook will have to be wary of where Johnson is on the field.

Tighten up the middle: Last season Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit’s big tight end, had his way with the Vikings. In one game, he had a touchdown, and, in the other, 112 receiving yards. The Vikings defense had no answer for him in the middle of the field. This week, the middle of the Vikings pass defense is missing two starters—S Mistral Raymond and LB Erin Henderson (who covers the middle in nickel situations). S Jamarca Sanford and LB Jasper Brinkley will have to step up. Coach Leslie Frazier said that Brinkley did OK in pass coverage last week, and that Sanford had worked his tail off for an opportunity at a starting safety position. The Lions will surely test how ready they are in the middle with the 6-5, 265-pound Pettigrew.

Ponder must have a short memory: Vikings QB Christian Ponder played one of the best games of his career last week, and his performances have been ascending all season. He has to remember that rather than his last trip to Detroit in 2011: “It was definitely a tough game, to have three interceptions and dealing with the injury and everything,” said Ponder. “We put up points, and I just kept making mistakes and turning the ball over. That was definitely a tough game.” Ponder’s confidence has been on the rise this season, and he will need to brim with it to get a win on the road in Detroit.

O-line is the key: The Vikings offensive line has quietly become one of the biggest keys to this season. Last week against the 49ers, the young offensive front held the Niners tough defensive front to zero sacks. If they can do that again against the very tough Lions front line, Ponder will have the time to find all of his weapons, such as TE Kyle Rudolph (three touchdowns), Harvin and WR Jerome Simpson (who is returning to the lineup after missing three games due to a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy). That will open things up for RB Adrian Peterson, who said he felt as if he finally shook off the rust after being out with a surgically repaired knee. If the offensive line does its job, a surging Vikings offense could be trouble for the Lions. 

For more Vikings news and notes, follow Joe Oberle on Twitter @CBSVikings.