A couple of NFC foes will reacquaint themselves this Sunday, as the Vikings travel to St. Louis to challenge the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2009, and it’s the 42nd contest all-time between the two franchises. But enough looking back, let’s look ahead at this matchup and point out a few of the storylines we’ll be chasing this week…
1. A Playoff Game In December?
Both the Vikings and Rams remain alive in the NFC playoff chase, but neither team can likely afford a loss this week if they hope to be in the mix a week from now. There won’t be any playoff pageantry or pre-game hype, but for all intents and purposes, Sunday’s matchup between these two teams is a de facto playoff game. This has no bearing on how the game will unfold on Sunday, but it’s interesting to note that the Vikings and Rams have met in the actual playoffs 7 times, including 4 times from 1974-78. The Vikings won 5 of the 7 postseason contests between the two franchises.
2. Adrian Peterson Chases 2,000-Yard Mark, MVP Award
Shifting the focus for a moment from the team goal of making the playoffs toward highlight individual accomplishment, the story of the week (and of the season) is Adrian Peterson. He leads the NFL with 1,600 rushing yards, which is more rushing yards than 23 other teams have, and he also is tied for 2nd in the NFL with 10 rushing TDs. Peterson will be going for his 8th consecutive 100-yard outing on Sunday, and over the last 7 games he’s averaged 157.2 yards per contest. To reach the 2,000-mark, Peterson must average 133.3 yards per game over the final 3 weeks of the season. Peterson has become a part of the conversation on a national level for MVP consideration, joining the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in that discussion.
3. The Rams Have A Good Running Back, Too
St. Louis has a beast of a RB, too, in Steven Jackson. In fact, Sunday’s Vikings-Rams game features two of the top 3 active career rushing leaders. Jackson (9,929) and Peterson (8,352) rank 1st and 3rd, respectively, in career rushing yards among active players. Jackson runs with an aggressive north-south style and also possesses the extra gear to break away in the open field.
4. Jeff Fisher Has Turned The Rams Around
In his first-year as head coach, the well-respected Jeff Fisher has turned the culture around in St. Louis. The Rams last had a winning season in 2003, when Mike Martz was the head coach and Marc Bulger was the QB. They were 12-4 that season, and since then have been no better than 8-8 and even fell to the depths of 2-14 in 2008 and 1-15 in 2009. They are 6-6-1 under Fisher in his first season, have dramatically increased their performance on defense and seem to be finding a few right answers on offense.
5. Rams A New Team Since Week 9 Bye
The Rams lost 3 straight games heading into their Week 9 bye, dropping them to 3-5 on the season and causing most people to all but forget about them. They came out of the bye a new team, though, playing the San Francisco 49ers to a tie in Week 10, dropping a contest to the Jets in Week 11, and then ripping off 3 straight wins, including 2 on the road, to move them to where they sit now at 6-6-1. Their pass rush has come alive, which has allowed their playmakers in the secondary to be more aggressive, and QB Sam Bradford has a 7-3 TD-INT ratio since the bye week.
6. Vikings Must Slow Down Rams Pass Rush
The Vikings bread and butter is the running game, obviously, so the Rams will be charged with slowing down the NFL’s best RB and 3rd-ranked rushing attack. But when it’s time to put the ball in the air, the Vikings must worry about the NFL’s 2nd-ranked pass rush. The Rams are tied for 2nd in the NFL with 39 sacks. DEs Robert Quinn (9.5) and Chris Long (7.5) lead the way for the Rams pass rush, but 3 others have 3+ sacks so it’s a deep group of pass rushers that will come at QB Christian Ponder all game.
7. Top Rookie Kickers Go Head-To-Head
Both the Vikings and Rams spent draft picks last April on kickers, and both teams couldn’t be happier with their selections. The Vikings, of course, spent a 6th-round pick on Blair Walsh and he’s already set a team record for single-season touchbacks and is just 10 points from setting the Vikings rookie scoring record, currently held by Randy Moss. The Rams also spent a 6th-round pick on their kicker – Greg Zuerlein – and he’s been equally as impressive. Zuerlein is 19 of 24 on FGs this season, including 5 of 8 from 50+. Walsh is 24 of 27 on FGs this season, including 5 of 5 from 50+.
8. Minnesota Natives Set To Battle Hometown Team
A couple of Rams defenders will see familiar colors on Sunday but will be battling against their hometown team. Middle LB James Laurinaitis is a Wayzata, MN native and S Craig Dahl is a Madison Lake, MN native. They are both starters on the Rams defense. Also, Apple Valley, MN native Trevor Laws plays on the Rams defensive line but is on the Reserve/Injured list.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 114 Comments »