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Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings: Five Vikings to watch

A battle of two division leaders should give the Rams a preview of playoff vibes.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings have found themselves on a roll. The Rams have won four straight while the Vikings are in the middle of five game win streak. The biggest story line will be Jared Goff vs Case Keenum in what figures to bring up Jeff Fisher’s name at least 1 million times on Sunday. Minnesota is led by a well rounded, elite defense, and has more than enough players worth watching on both sides of the ball. Here’s my five Vikings to watch.

WR Adam Thielen

Thielen is the Vikes’ leading receiver and has no business being labeled as “underrated” or “unknown” any longer. With Stefon Diggs missing two games to injury, Thielen was able to lead an offense that has two former first-round picks at WR. Thielen’s 87 targets are 33 more than the next Viking player so there is no mystery who Case Keenum and the offense go to. His 56 catches for 793 yards are also leading the team by a wide margin but he has just two TDs to show for it, both of which came in the last two weeks. Thielen and his 6-3 frame, present a tough matchup for whichever Rams CB charged with covering him.

DE Everson Griffen

One of the NFLs most consistent pass rushers, Griffen will be back on the field this week after missing the last game in Washington with an injury. Even still, Griffen has 10.0 sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and has at least one sack in every game. He’s a problem. On a defensive line with Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter the Rams offensive line will have their biggest test to date if Griffen is 100% healthy. But the Vikings defensive line really poses the biggest threat to the Rams running game. Minnesota is allowing the 3rd fewest rushing yards with the 2nd best yard per carry average.

QB Case Keenum

Keenum has been surprisingly effective in Minnesota this year, as Jeff Fisher continues to weep. Filling in for the injured Sam Bradford, Keenum has started seven games with a 5-2 record and has held off calls to re-install a healthy Teddy Bridgewater as the starter. While Jared Goff has been explosive in his turnaround, Keenum has been steady and playing the best version of Zimmer-ball the Vikings could have hoped for. Having only been sacked five times in his seven starts, Case has completed 64.9% of passes for 1914 yards, 11 TDs, and five INTs. Strangely enough, Keenum’s two losses have come in the only two games in where he was sacked more than once.

FS Harrison Smith

Smith is a big bodied center field safety who doesn’t mind sticking his nose in the run game at all. Already in his 6th year, Smith is off to one of his best seasons yet according to PFF, who has him ranked as the NFL’s top graded safety to this point in the year. Smith leads the Vikings with three interceptions and has been able to record 1.5 sacks as well. He’s one of the league’s most well rounded safeties and it will be interesting to see if the Rams passing attack can get the better of Smith and the rest of the Vikings talented DBs.

RB Jerick McKinnon

McKinnon has teased Minnesota with big play ability since they drafted him and he’s finally getting a chance of being more than a spell back with Dalvin Cook on IR. He splits carries with Latavius Murray now and starting in week five after Cook’s injury, McKinnon has carried the ball at least 14 times in each game up until last week when he had just 10 for 32 yards against the Redskins. McKinnon has breakaway speed that the Rams will need to prioritize keeping the edges set in order not to get burned. For the season he’s rushed for 319 yards with a 4.0 yard average and three TD’s but has not rushed for more than 50 yards since week six. He’s also added 30 catches for 218 yards and one TD.