The Vikings get their first shot at primetime tonight as they travel to Los Angeles to take on the surging Rams. So many stories surround this matchup, not the least of which is the high number of injuries. To get a better gauge of one of the league’s most exciting teams, we asked Full Press Rams editor Andrew Kelly a few questions leading up to this battle of NFC elites.
What do you expect the Rams’ plan to be without either of their star corners?
Kelly: I think the Rams will look to dial up the pressure with their pass rush due to the absence of their star corners. I would expect a lot of blitz packages that aim to get the ball out of Cousins’ hands quickly and protect their corners against the deep ball. Especially with Nickell Robey-Coleman, who is usually in a slot role, taking a role on the outside I would not be surprised to see that the Rams try to force the Vikings into throwing quick routes, which he is much more adept at defending.
What do you attribute the Ram’s 5.0 yards per rush allowed to?
Kelly: I think that the their inconsistency at middle linebacker would be a good reason for their poor defense against the run. You can see a very similar thing when looking back to last season, when the Rams allowed a lot of big runs up the middle in the early season. On a lot of plays, it seems as though the defensive front for L.A. is opening up gaps for linebackers to come through and make tackles, but they just aren’t making the plays.
What has Brandin Cooks meant for L.A., and more specifically Jared Goff’s production?
Kelly: Brandin Cooks has meant a lot to the Rams offense, especially in terms of allowing Sean McVay to be even more creative. Cooks’ diverse route-running open things up for McVay’s playbook, giving Jared Goff a very reliable target at all levels of the field. Compared to Sammy Watkins last season, who was typically only a threat to the deeper part of the field, Cooks can provide a check down for Goff, an intermediate route, and has the ability to burn defenders deep down the field.
What’s the biggest matchup you’re eyeing?
Kelly: I am looking closely at the Rams’ defensive line against the Vikings’ offensive front. With the Rams likely facing a tough test against Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen on the outside, it will be crucial for Los Angeles defenders to put pressure on Kirk Cousins early and often. Aaron Donald is yet to record a sack this season, so it will be very important for him to reverse this trend on Thursday night. Also, if Dalvin Cook is able to play, it will be up to the Ram defensive line to open up big gaps for the linebackers to make tackles.
Kelly: I am predicting a 31-24 Rams win. With Cook’s status in question, I think the Rams will be able to tee off on Cousins enough to keep him somewhat under control in the passing game. Also, the Rams offense seems to be a multi-headed attack that will be tough for defenses to face all season and I predict the Vikings struggling in the absence of Everson Griffen.