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Los Angeles Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings: The Professor’s Preview

Is this a preview of the NFC Championship?

St. Louis Rams v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Sherman/Getty Images

Overview

Coming into the 2018 season, the Minnesota Vikings were picked by many football experts to be the team favored to represent the NFC Conference in the Super Bowl this year. I was not among them despite their appearance in the NFC Championship Game last year.

Had it not been for the Minneapolis Miracle, the New Orleans Saints at least would have made a better showing then the Vikings did against Philadelphia Eagles.

Another reason I wouldn’t crown the Vikings right away stems from my belief that when you lose your offensive coordinator and replace your starting quarterback from last year swapping QB Case Keenum with QB Kirk Cousins, it takes time to get things rolling.

Sure enough, the Vikings’ offense has struggled to this point.

The Vikings rank 22nd in points scored, 14th in total yards and 31st in rushing yards per game. Minnesota’s only respectable stat is their 4th place rank in passing yards per game.

While it’s still early in the season, the Vikings record right now stands as 1-1-1. Minnesota is coming off a huge upset loss to, of all teams, the Buffalo Bills who were 0-2 at the time and made the decision to start rookie quarterback Josh Allen.

But throw out the records of both the Los Angeles Rams at 3-0 and the Vikingsfor this Thursday Night nationally-televised game because our Rams defense comes limping into the game with the loss of starting CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib due to injuries. It’s therefore reasonable to conclude that Minnesota is gonna win this game.

I’m not buying it.

If the Rams’ offense can score their league average of more then 30 points and the defense can get to Cousins, then the Rams will win this game. While this may appears to be a mighty task, here’s how the best team in the NFC Conference gets it done.

What the Rams need to do on defense

Stop the run first and foremost.

The Vikings’ offensive line isn’t that good, and the stats through three weeks prove it. This will put the Vikings in must-pass situations. The Vikings wide receivers, composed of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell along with TE Kyle Randolph as a unit are considered one of the best in the league. So the Rams have to ensure they provide the quarterback no time to throw. Hurry him consistently to force bad decisions even with a depleted secondary.

Despite being a short week, Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips is gonna come up with a lot of exotic blitz packages designed to help out his secondary. If the Rams defense can find ways to get to Cousins with their vaunted “Fearsome Threesome,” they will be fine.

If the Rams are unable to do this, then you wind up in a game where the last team with the ball on offense will probably have the best chance to win.

This might be too much for the old Professor to take after last week.

So I say this without hesitation that this game will boil down to the battle on the Rams defensive line against the Vikings offensive line and our beloved Wade Phillips finding a way to put pressure on Kirk Cousins.

The Rams’ defense doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough to keep the Vikings score down to under 25 points leaving it up to the Rams’ offense do their job.

What the Rams need to do on offense

Minnesota’s defense ranks 17th in points allowed per game, 9th against the pass, 14th against the rush and 10th in total yards while the Rams are averaging a whopping 34 points per game.

I hate to say this, but for this offense an average performance still means the Rams offense can’t be stopped.

Stay away from the turnovers and unforced penalties. Score every time they cross the fifty into Vikings territory, whether its a field goal or touchdown.

The Rams need to put up thirty tonight.

What the Rams need to do on special teams

Make the critical long field goals. Punt the ball deep so that the Vikings’ offense has to start inside their 20-yard line.

For this game considering that the Rams are now onto their third punt returner of the season (seemingly WR Cooper Kupp), just fair catch the ball. No muffs. If Cooper thinks he can SAFELY pick up yardage, do it. Otherwise, just hand the ball over to the offense.

The X-Factors

It’s a short week, but an even shorter week for Head Coach Mike Zimmer to get his Vikings prepared as they have to fly across the county giving more time for the Rams to prepare.

X-factor rating: slight advantage, Rams

Head Coach Sean McVay is credited by Cousins for making him the 26-million dollar man for the Vikes. I normally take the teacher over the student, but last year, when Cousins played for Washington, he bested the Rams

X-factor rating: push

The timing in the schedule is critical. The Rams have a two-game lead over their rivals in NFC west division, and a letdown could be very easy for the Rams here as the Vikings come off a huge upset loss to the Bills...

X-factor rating: advantage, Vikings

History

Three teams which long-time diehard Rams fans like me have no love for: the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings make this list because of all those times they beat the Rams in the playoffs back in the 70’s. In the frigid cold of Minnesota without the heaters and hot packs, the Rams froze even though they had a better team.

Forty years has passed since the last time I saw the Rams play a meaningful game against the Vikings in the Coliseum... The Mud Bowl. That game became one of those painful losses one never forgets.

At that time, the Rams had the home-field advantage able to avoid the sub-zero weather in Minneapolis. But it rained all week in Los Angeles right up to the game causing the Coliseum grass to turn to mud. The Rams played like they stuck in it leading to another playoff loss to Vikings.

Going into the 1999 Divisional Playoff Game, the Rams were 0-4 in playoff games against Minnesota, but that year the Rams had the comfortable confines of playing in a dome where weather would not be a factor. Before that game I told anyone in Los Angeles who still rooted for the team that that if the Rams could finally get over their playoff drought with the Vikes, they would win the Super Bowl.

For me, that was my Super Bowl Game. The Rams blew out the Vikings in the second half with ultimate team effort on special teams, offense and defense. I never celebrated so much, running into the street screaming “The Rams Win! The Rams Win!”

The drought was over and I knew right then my St. Louis Rams of Los Angeles were a team of destiny as the Super Bowl Championship I had dreamed about in my youth, stolen from me by the Minnesota Vikings so many times, was going to be ours.

The Vikings never deserved to be in the big game in the first place all those years relying on mother nature rather then the quality of their team to beat my Rams accumulating an 0-4 record in the big game ranking right up there with the Buffalo Bills.


Wounded, hobbled and injured coming into the game, I call this a “no excuses” game. If you’re the best, you have to beat the best. But if the Vikings are as good as advertised by the football experts who picked them to go the Super Bowl, you don’t lose to an 0-2 Buffalo Bills.

The time has come to enter into a new era between the Rams and Vikings. This time, it’s gonna be my Rams taking home the trophy this time. While a lot has happened since those bygone days of my youth, this is a different Rams team. But no matter how different the times are, nothing changes for me.

I don’t like the Vikings.

GO RAMS! NO EXCUSES!