Thursday Night Football this week takes us to L.A. for what on paper should be a really exciting matchup between two of the top teams in the NFC. What would make this game better is if it were scheduled for later in the season and both teams were coming off of byes, because both teams, especially the Rams, are dealing with injuries to some significant players. The Rams put Aqib Talib on IR as he is going to have ankle surgery. He’ll likely be one of the designated players that gets to come back this season, but for this game that’ll be huge. Marcus Peters will also miss this game as will kicker Greg Zuerlein. For the Vikings, Marcus Sherels will miss this game as will Everson Griffen, who you just hope can get his mental health going in the right direction because that’s more important than football, and Dalvin Cook is about as questionable as someone can be.
Vikings offense vs Rams defense
The Vikings offense is no doubt improved this season with the addition of Kirk Cousins, but this will be a tough challenge for them, on a short week after getting shutdown last week by the Bills, going against what is one of the top defenses in the league.
What will definitely help the Vikings is that the Rams will be missing their two top corners, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. The Vikings have one of the top duos of wide receivers in the league in Stefon Diggs Adam Thielen. The absence of those two corners will make things significantly easier for the Vikings trying to move the ball through the air because they also have Kyle Rudolph, so those three weapons won’t be easy to defend with no Talib or Peters.
Minnesota already doesn’t have the best running game and with a banged up Dalvin Cook, or possibly no Dalvin Cook at all against that Rams defensive front, any forward rushing game the Vikings can get would be really helpful because I’m not expecting a whole lot on the ground.
Rams offense vs Vikings defense
The Vikings have one of the better defenses in the league and now they’ll be looking to bounce back after a rough game against the Bills last week. This won’t be easy though as the Rams are one of the better offenses in the league and they’ll have the advantage of playing at home in this one.
I’m definitely expecting a better performance out of the Vikings this week than they gave us last week against Buffalo, where I’m fully convinced the Vikings were overlooking the Bills in anticipation for this matchup.
The key to slowing down the Rams offense obviously starts with being able to bottle up Todd Gurley.
Gurley is obviously great in the run game, but he also excels in the passing game out of the backfield, which makes him even more difficult to slow down than a normal great running back would be.
To me, the key for the Vikings will ultimately come down to being able to slow down the running game because when the Rams get Gurley going on the ground, Sean McVay is usually able to figure out a way to torch opposing defenses. If they can slow down Gurley it’ll give them a much better chance of holding down the Rams offense and giving their offense a better chance against a banged up Rams defense.
Just a couple weeks ago, this matchup would’ve easily went to the Rams and Greg Zuerlein, but after Daniel Carlson missed field goals that led to the Vikings tying the Packers, they went out and got Dan Bailey, and the Rams will be without Zuerlein as he is dealing with a groin injury. Quite the turn in the kicking game over the past two weeks for each of these two teams. This could mean a lot of two-point and fourth-down conversion attempts for the Rams, which gives an obvious special teams edge to the Vikings.
This should be a good matchup, but if both teams were healthy I’d give a fairly comfortable edge to the Rams with this game being at home on a Thursday Night, but with Talib, Peters and Zuerlein all out, that evens this Thursday Night game up a lot because those are three major players for L.A. I’m still going to side with the Rams however just because they are the home team for a Thursday game.