Two NFC heavyweights face off in primetime on Thursday night in Los Angeles. The Minnesota Vikings are travelling on a short week to LA to take on the Rams in what should be an exciting matchup.
The Vikings are coming into the game 1-1-1 after getting blown out by the Bills last Sunday, 27-6. Previously, the Vikes won week 1 24-16 against a tough 49ers team, and tied the Packers at Lambeau 29-29.
The Rams come in to the game 3-0. They have won each game handily, beating the Raiders 33-13, the Cardinals 34-0, and the Chargers 35-23.
Vegas has the Rams as 7 point favorites at home, and an O/U total set at 49.5.
The Vikings are coming off a tough loss to one of the leagues worst teams. Kirk Cousins turned the ball over 3 times, and struggled to stop the Bills in short field situations. Cousins threw the ball 55 times in the game in an attempt to mount a comeback after falling down 17-0 in the first half. He completed 40 of those passes for 296 yards, averaging just over 5 yards per attempt.
Cousins lived under pressure Sunday, as the offensive line was atrocious. Left tackle Riley Reiff and right guard Mike Remmers combined for 20 pressures allowed on their own. Cousins escaped with only 3 sacks on the day, but that kind of line play is not sustainable for a team that has high aspirations for the 2018 season.
The defense continues to be one of the best units in the league, and was at a bit of a disadvantage against Buffalo due to the turnovers. They are top 10 in the league in total pressures, led by edge rusher Danielle Hunter’s 3 sacks, and star cornerback Xavier Rhodes’ longest pass allowed on the season is 16 yards.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
EDGE Everson Griffen (personal) – out, RB Dalvin Cook (hamstring) – limited Tuesday, questionable, OT Riley Reiff (foot)- DNP Tuesday, questionable
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams offense has been cookin’. Averaging 34 points per game, Jared Goff is leading a unit that is looking like it could lead the league in scoring again. Speaking of Goff, he has improved in each of his 3 seasons, and is looking like a legitimate MVP candidate at this point. Last week against the Chargers, Goff threw for 354 yards on 29/36 passes, adding 3 touchdowns and an interception.
The offensive line has been among the best in the league, and has allowed just 17 total pressures on the season. Jared Goff has been sacked 4 times, but it is arguable that 2 or 3 of those are his fault. The unit has also consistently been opening up gaping holes for Todd Gurley in the run game, as LA running backs have rushed for 348 yards, and are averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
The defense has been impressive as well, although the tandem of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh is really yet to take off. They have combined for an impressive 26 pressures, but have just 1 sack to their name. The secondary was gashed a bit by Philip Rivers last week, and the Rams will likely be coming into this game with 2 new starting cornerbacks due to injuries to Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
CB Aqib Talib (ankle) – out, CB Marcus Peters (calf)- questionable, likely a game time decision, LB Mark Barron (ankle) – DNP Tuesday, questionable
Matchups to Watch
Vikings WRs Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen vs Rams CBs
Vikings iOL vs Rams DIs Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh
Rams OT Andrew Whitworth vs Vikings EDGE Danielle Hunter
Rams RB Todd Gurley vs Vikings LBs Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks
These Thursday games are hard to predict man. On a short week, neither team has the time they’d like to really gameplan for their opponent.
The Vikings offensive line has to be shaking in their shoes after allowing that field day to the Bills, and now having to face guys like Donald and Suh. The Vikings will likely take a similar approach to other teams that have faced LA this season, with a lot of short crossers and slant/flat combos.
If Dalvin Cook plays, we expect him to get a healthy workload in the passing game, attempting to exploit the Rams linebackers in space. It will be hard to take full advantage of the Rams being down their 2 starting corners with the Rams pass rush, but the Stefon Diggs / Adam Thielen combo should find success against the likes of Troy Hill and Sam Shields.
The Rams offense has been unstoppable by opposing teams defenses, and has really only stalled due to penalties or turnovers. We don’t expect them to struggle too much against this Vikings D, as tough as they are. Even on a short week, Sean McVay will have his play-action west coast offense dialed up, and should be able to exploit the Vikings over the middle of the field.
The Rams lost in Minnesota last season, and we believe they’ll be out for blood this time around. Even so, 7 points in the NFL on a short week is a lot of points, but with Jared Goff playing the way he is, and the questions the Vikings are facing after last weeks debacle, we are rolling with the Rams to cover at home.
Final Pick: Rams (-7)