Many people believes this game is a preview of the NFC title game. The Vikings are likely to be highly motivated, coming off a shocking loss, at home no less, to the Buffalo Bills. Many people think the Rams are the best team in the NFL right now, but they are also banged up. Oddsmakers favor the Rams by 6.5 at home.
Rams Offense vs. Vikings Defense
This game will be a marquee matchup of two of the NFL's elite units. Los Angeles comes in having scored well over 30 points in all three games so far, and the Rams point totals potentially could have been much higher in the last couple of games had it not been for some key turnovers.
The Vikings were the league's number one ranked defense in 2017 and feature top talent at all three levels. They will be without DE Everson Griffen, who is under psychological observation after a disturbing incident this past weekend. However, they still are strong up front, with DE Danielle Hunter and DT Linval Joseph. There are those who think Rams QB Jared Goff doesn't handle pressure very well, but the Los Angeles O-Line has been stellar so far.
Of course, when you are talking about the Rams offense, it starts with Todd Gurley, who is off to an MVP caliber start. He's a Marshall Faulk-type dual running and receiving a threat, and job one for Minnesota will be containing him. The other big matchup will be the Vikings secondary versus the Rams Receiving trio of Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. Los Angeles may need another 30 plus points to win this game, given the Rams defensive injuries. They were only able to muster seven points in a Road loss to the Vikings last year. I doubt that will happen again.
Rams Defense vs. Vikings Offense
If the Rams were healthy, I would check this box for them. However, injuries to Ram cornerbacks Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters call that into question. Talib placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, so he's gone for at least eight weeks.
Listed as day-to-day with a calf injury Peters status unclear. I guess that he won't play against the Vikings either. If those guys were healthy, I would be pretty comfortable with the matchup of the Rams secondary vs. Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
I have a fair amount of confidence in Same Shields stepping in for Talib. However, if Troy Hill subs for Peters..."Los Angeles, we have a problem" in my opinion. Sorry, I'm not a Troy Hill fan. I'll look like a fool If Hill performs well by my negative expectation of his talent, but I will be happy. I don't think that will happen. Nickell Robey Coleman will likely continue as the slot corner for the Rams, and he's stable to very good.
However, the Vikings killed the Rams in the fourth quarter of last year's game, matching Thielen up against a backup corner (Dominique Hatfield), and it turned out to be the key to the game. I hope that doesn't happen tonight.
One place where the Rams have a significant edge is in the trenches, and if they can pressure Kirk Cousins enough, it could cancel the whole reserve cornerback issue, or at least reduce.
The Vikings O-line is probably their Achilles heel, and the Rams defensive front is a nightmare even for a good O-line. Will Aaron Donald go off tonight? The answer may decide how this game turns out. Ndamukong Suh had a sack last week and disrupted the Chargers running game, and Micheal Brockers is probably the most underrated defensive lineman in the NFL. The Rams outside linebackers haven't generated a consistent pass rush so far this season. I keep expecting Samson Ekubam to step up. He's had his moments; he needs to have more of them. On the other side of the ball, we don't know if running back Dalvin Cook will play or not. He adds explosiveness to their offense that could be a big factor in this game if he plays.
Edge: Even (only due to Rams injuries)
The situation here is very similar to the Rams defense, with injuries reducing what would be a significant Rams advantage under other conditions. Placekicker Greg Zuerlein is still out. Sam Ficken twice missed a long field goal attempt last week (it goes in the books as one miss, since the Chargers called a timeout just before the first attempt). He made several PATs, but a couple of them looked a little shaky. The Rams have likewise lost return man JoJo Natson, who was himself filling in for an injured Pharoh Cooper. On the other hand, the Rams did block a Chargers punt for a touchdown. The Rams usually have the best special teams in the league--but with all of these injuries, who knows?
I think the Rams are better than the Vikings at this point, but defensively they are banged up that predicting this game is dicey. The good news for the Rams is that their offense has been clicking on all cylinders, and that part of their team is relatively healthy. They are going to need it, but playing at home, I will take the Rams in a shootout.
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