This game is a possible playoff preview, and also gives the Rams a chance to prove they are contenders rather than pretenders. It also offers and intriguing quarterback matchup, with former Rams starter Case Keenum going against the man who replaced him, former first-overall pick Jared Goff.
On paper this game could go either way, and turnovers/penalties may very well decide the outcome. Which isn't unusual, but this one could very well go down to the last play of the game, or even into overtime.
Rams Offense vs Vikings Defense
This is probably the best match up of any two NFL units this weekend, and one of the best this season. It also matches two of the best coaching minds in the league, with defensive wizard Mike Zimmer (Vikings) matching wits with offensive Einstein Sean McVay (Rams). The Vikings will likely try to pressure Rams quarterback Jared Goff and confuse him with some odd-looking defenses and maybe some exotic blitzes. One of the keys to this game will be whether Rams All-Pro tackle Andrew Whitworth can contain Vikings pass-rushing demon Everson Griffen, who is officially listed as questionable but is expected to play. If Whitworth can at least hold his own it will allow the Rams to help out right tackle Rob Havenstein against defensive end Dannielle Hunter, who is no slough as a pass rusher either.
The other key to tamping down the pass rush is, of course, Todd Gurley. When he is running well the Rams like to utilize the play-action in the passing game, and Gurley has also turned into one of the better pass catching running backs in the league. If he has a big day, the Rams probably win this game. Vikings linebackers Anthony Barr, one of the faster people at his position in the league, and teammate Eric Kendricks will try to cover Gurley out of the backfield. Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes usually lines up against the other team's top receiver. In this case that (probably) means he will try to shut down Robert Woods, who had a monster day last week against the Texans The problem for the Vikings is that Rams receiving corp is so deep that even if Rhodes wins that battle, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp are dangerous receivers as well. And there is always rookie Josh Reynolds waiting in the wings. He hasn't done much so far, but the ability is there. Pick your poison.
Edge: Rams (but not by much)
Rams Defense vs Vikings Offense
Viking wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are playing as well as any receiving duo in the league, and present a major challenge to the Rams secondary. If Case Keenum gets time to throw the ball, that match up could be a problem for Los Angeles. But Vikings right tackle Mike Remmers is out, while outside linebacker Robert Quinn is expected back this week for the Rams. Aaron Donald is probably the best defensive lineman in the NFL, and Micheal Brockers is having a monster season as well. Keenum, meanwhile, has physical limitations in terms of mobility and arm strength, but has been lights out for Minnesota. Ram fans know he can be interception prone under pressure, and he did throw a pair of picks last week against the Redskins. The Rams pass rush versus the Vikings offensive line is critical to the outcome of this game. If Keenum does struggle--or gets hurt--former (and probably future) starter Teddy Bridgewater is available for the Vikings, but the fact he hasn't played in a game for a year and a half does raise some concerns if he has to take over. The Vikings ground game is decent averaging 118 yards per game, but their passing game is probably a bigger concern. My big worry here is the Rams secondary holding up against Thielen and Diggs.
Edge: Vikings (again, not by much)
This is the only area where I see a significant advantage to either team, and it goes to the Rams. Greg Zuerlein was NFC special teams player of the week last week, and ''legatron'' could well decide the outcome of this game. Johnny Hekker is the best punter on the planet, and occasionally gets to show off his passing skills as a former high school quarterback on fake punts. Pharoh Cooper is always a threat to run kicks back for six points, and Corey Littleton has already blocked two punts this season. The Rams special teams may be the best in the league, and could well decide this game
Rams 27 Vikings 24