Following back-to-back home victories, the St. Louis Rams will hit the road on Sunday, for an NFL Week 9 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
The two teams appear to be mirror images of each other, with both clubs being led by defensive-minded coaches, who have both built top 10-rated defensive units. St. Louis is ranked sixth overall in total defense, while Minnesota is just behind at seventh.
The Rams and Vikings both also feature strong rushing attacks, which are led by two of the best backs in the game – St. Louis rookie Todd Gurley and Minnesota former all-pro and MVP Adrian Peterson. Neither club seems to be very good at throwing the ball though, as the Vikings rank 30th overall in passing, while the Rams find themselves ranked worst in the league at 32nd.
One especially intriguing aspect of Sunday’s matchup is the possible playoff implications on the line for both clubs. If the playoffs were to begin this week, both St. Louis and Minnesota would be among the teams playing in the postseason.
The Vikings and Rams would be the NFC’s two wild-card teams, with Minnesota owning the No. 5 seed and St. Louis holding the No. 6 spot. Both clubs are also just a game out on the loss side of their respective divisional races, with the Vikings chasing Green Bay and the Rams just behind Arizona.
ST. LOUIS RAMS 2015 FOOTBALL — GAMEDAY PREVIEW
ST. LOUIS RAMS (4-3) at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-2)
TCF BANK STADIUM — NOVEMBER 8, 2015 – 12 p.m.
Sunday’s contest will be the 37th meeting between the Rams and Vikings, with the Vikes holding the all-time edge, 20-14-2. Minnesota has won three in a row against St. Louis, including last year’s season opener at the Edward Jones Dome, 34-6.
The Rams’ last win against the Vikings came in the 2006 season finale at Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. St. Louis won that game 41-21, thanks to a brilliant performance by running back Steven Jackson, who had 166 total yards (142 rushing) and four touchdowns.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Offense ……………………… Defense
QB — 5 Nick Foles …………… DE – 95 William Hayes
RB – 30 Todd Gurley ……….. DT – 99 Aaron Donald
FB – 46 Corey Harkey ……… DT – 90 Michael Brockers
LT – 73 Greg Robinson ……… DE – 94 Robert Quinn
LG – 71 Garrett Reynolds ….. LB – 56 Akeem Ayers
C – 61 Tim Barnes ………….. LB – 55 James Laurinaitis
RG – 68 Jamon Brown ……… LB – 26 Mark Barron
RT – 79 Rob Havenstein …… CB – 21 Janoris Jenkins
TE – 89 Jared Cook ………… SS – 25 T.J. McDonald
WR – 11 Tavon Austin ……… FS – 23 Rodney McLeod
WR – 18 Kenny Britt ……….. CB – 22 Trumaine Johnson
Offense ……………………… Defense
QB – 5 Teddy Bridgewater…… DE – 96 Brian Robison
RB – 28 Adrian Peterson ……. DT – 73 Sharrif Floyd
FB – 48 Zach Line ..………… NT – 98 Linval Joseph
LT – 75 Matt Kalil …………. DE – 97 Everson Griffen
LG – 63 Brandon Fusco ……. LB – 55 Anthony Barr
C – 61 Joe Berger ………….. LB – 57 Audie Cole
RG – 79 Mike Harris ……….. LB – 52 Chad Greenway
RT – 68 T.J. Clemmings …… CB – 23 Terence Newman
TE – 82 Kyle Rudolph …….. SS – 34 Andrew Sendejo
WR – 11 Mike Wallace …….. FS – 22 Harrison Smith
WR – 14 Stefon Diggs …….. CB – 29 Xavier Rhodes
Key Players to Watch
With both clubs being led by their tailbacks, the true key figures in Sunday’s matchup might be the quarterbacks, Nick Foles of St. Louis and Teddy Bridgewater of Minnesota. Neither guy is having a particularly spectacular season, but it might be necessary for one of them to play well on Sunday in order for their team to win.
Bridgewater has passed for 1,526 yards and six touchdowns this season, while Foles has 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns. But with both teams expecting to move the ball well with their running games, Sunday’s matchup might come down to which quarterback can do the most for his team through the air.
Both teams also have talented young receivers emerging as top playmakers for their respective clubs. St. Louis’ Tavon Austin, who is tied for third in the league with seven touchdowns, has found the end zone on four passing plays, two rushing plays, and a punt return already this season, while Minnesota rookie Stefon Diggs, who didn’t even suit up for the Vikings’ first three games of the season, has become a star in its last four by becoming the first player ever to top 85 receiving yards in each of his first four games.
In fact, Diggs has already become Minnesota’s leading receiver, with 419 yards, which ranks second to Oakland’s Amari Cooper for tops among all NFL rookies this season. The Vikings will also hope to get contributions from veterans Mike Wallace and Kyle Rudolph, while the Rams must count on receiver Kenny Britt and tight end Jared Cook to step up their games.