The St. Louis Rams are still trying to make a last minute push for the playoffs. Luckily for the Rams their next opponent is the Minnesota Vikings, who hold a 7-6 record and are in front of the 6-6-1 Rams to make the playoffs.
This will most likely be the easiest match up remaining for the Rams, since their last two games are away games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks. Being the last home game for the Rams this year, it would be great to give the home crowd hope for the future by winning this week.
This doesn't mean that the Rams will smack the Vikings around, and the starters will head home at halftime. This will be a physical game, in what should be considered a playoff atmosphere.
Here are your keys to the game.
Establishing the run with Steven Jackson
For most of the season, things wasn't looking rosy for the long time Ram, but since week 10 Jackson has been running the ball with more power.
Granted, the last two games haven't been great for Jackson, he's only rushed for 112 yards combined in those two games, but he's been getting tough yards. The Rams will need to run the ball close to 20 times, to keep the Vikings defense honest, and help the passing game.
Stopping the incredible Adrian Peterson
After watching the last two Viking games, the player that stands out the most ( surprise!) is Adrian Peterson. I try not to use the word beast a lot, but it describes Peterson to the core. His offensive line does good jobs creating holes for Peterson to run through, but he does the rest. The man has 1,600 yards coming off a major knee surgery. There is no better running back in the NFL than him right now.
The Rams should not arm tackle him during this game, because if he can, he will break for a long gain. Against the Bears Peterson ran against 9 man fronts during the 1st half, and broke two big runs. The Bears adjusted, by moving back to 7 men in the box, and running stunts, or blitzes to stop Peterson. The bad news for the Rams is that he runs better running to the outside, so Robert Quinn and Chris Long will have to worry about that.
The Rams need to pressure Christian Ponder into mistakes
The Vikings offensive line was good in pass protection and run blocking in the last two games. I don't think much will change this week. What hurts the Vikings is their receivers are really bad. Percy Harvin was their only legitimate threat, and now he's on injured reserve .
I don't know if Ponder is a bust, but you have to give him more than tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Michael Jenkins to work with. Since he doesn't have anyone better, he sometimes forces the passes in coverage. I noticed in the last two games when he felt pressure he didn't take the sack. Instead, he forced the ball into coverage, or he tried to scramble for yards. He's more mobile then you would think, so the Rams should watch out.
Sam Bradford needs to be more mobile then usual this week.
Bradford has gotten better this season at sensing the rush in the pocket, and looks more comfortable running the ball when things break down. However, he needs to do it more often. Most of the time it's when there is only no other option, or when it's clutch time.
The Vikings have the tendency to crash the pocket around the QB. In the Packers game, Aaron Rodgers had to scramble to buy time and to avoid from being crushed in the 2nd half. During the Bears game the rush was so bad that it forced two interceptions, and multiple passes that were close.
Bradford will have to show more mobility in and outside the pocket if the Rams want to win.
Please be healthy Danny Amendola
It's looking more and more likely that the Rams star wideout will play this week.
Although the Rams have played good football without their best weapon on offense, Bradford still needs his security blanket. Amendola is his 1st and 3rd down man. The question is how healthy is Amendola? If he's more then 75 percent, the Rams have to put him on the field for a few snaps at least and let him play decoy.