Lions hoping to defend home field against Vikings

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DETROIT (AP) — Calvin Johnson didn't even play when the Detroit Lions beat Minnesota in October.

Megatron is back now, and his return to form has helped the Lions move closer to a playoff spot.

Johnson has surpassed 140 yards in each of his past two games, and Detroit enters its last home game of the regular season brimming with confidence after back-to-back victories.

The Lions would be almost assured of a berth in the postseason if they win their next two games — at home against Minnesota on Sunday and at Chicago the following weekend.

"It feels good. We're in a good spot right now," Johnson said. "We just have to keep stacking those wins."

Detroit beat Minnesota 17-3 earlier this season. That was without Johnson, who missed a month with an ankle injury, but his return has helped the Lions offensively. Their past two games were wins over Tampa Bay and Chicago, by identical 34-17 scores.

Matthew Stafford has played some of his best football of the season lately, and with a defense that stuffs the run and pressures quarterbacks, Detroit can be difficult to handle if its offense contributes at all.

"They're really explosive. They didn't have (Reggie) Bush or Calvin Johnson when we played them the first time," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

"Bush is another weapon coming out of the backfield and the things that he does in the screen game. With Calvin Johnson comes another opportunity for them to continue to make big plays."

Detroit (9-4) finishes the regular season with a game at Green Bay, so the two before that are crucial. The last thing the Lions need is an upset loss at home this weekend.

Like the Lions, the Vikings (6-7) have won two in a row. Minnesota has also won four of its past six, although the victories came against weaker competition such as Tampa Bay, Washington and the New York Jets.

Here are a few things to watch when Detroit hosts the Vikings:

STAFFORD'S SURGE: It hasn't been a great statistical season for Stafford, but his past two games have been impressive. The Detroit quarterback went 34 of 45 for 390 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears on Thanksgiving, then he went 26 of 34 for 311 yards and three TDs against the Buccaneers last weekend.

ANOTHER CHANCE: Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater was sacked eight times in his team's first meeting with Detroit this season. That was only the second start for the rookie quarterback, and he also threw three interceptions.

Over his past six games, however, Bridgewater has nine touchdown passes and three interceptions.

ON THE LINE: Minnesota's injury-plagued offensive line has looked better lately. Guard Brandon Fusco and tackle Phil Loadholt are on injured reserve — each with a torn pectoral muscle — but backups like Joe Berger seem to have helped stabilize things.

"I think it's going well. I think that's what we're here for, to be able to come in and play," Berger said. "Obviously we lost some very good players, so we've just got to try to fill it up as best we can."

Stafford, meanwhile, has been sacked a career-high 39 times. That's part of the reason Detroit's offense was struggling until the past couple of weeks.

RUNNING GAME: Detroit has the league's No. 1 defense against the run, and the Lions have shown some signs of developing a better running game. Joique Bell had 174 yards on 41 carries over the past two games.

DEFENDING THEIR TURF: The Lions have a chance to finish 7-1 at home with a victory this weekend. Detroit only won six home games total over the previous two seasons.

"We always want it to be a tough place to play," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "Always want to find ways to win at home, as it's always tough to go on the road and get wins."


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