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Game Preview: Rams, Vikings to Meet in Matchup of First-Place NFC Teams

Posted Nov 17, 2017

The Rams will travel to Minnesota in Week 11 to face the former QB Case Keenum and the Vikings.

After a commanding win over the Texans in Week 10, the Rams will look for their fifth-straight victory on Sunday against the Vikings. With both clubs currently boasting 7-2 records, this contest could have significant implications moving forward this season.

And while the Rams have started 2017 with a strong year-to-year turnaround, a tough Minnesota team could present them with their toughest challenge yet — pitting the NFL’s top scoring offense against a Vikings’ defense that is allowing just 18.3 points per game.  

“I think so, I think it’s definitely up there,” wide receiver Robert Woods said. “[They have] guys all around who play really well.”

“They present a variety of issues with their schemes and then they’ve got players to match,” head coach Sean McVay echoed. “But, certainly you get excited to go against a great team and a great defense like this.”

Sunday will mark the 37th contest between the two franchises in series history. The last time the Rams and Vikings faced each other was in 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium — the Golden Gophers stadium where the Vikings played for two years while U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction. Kicker Greg Zuerlein connected on a career long 61-yard field goal that day, but the Vikings still earned a 21-18 overtime win.

This time around, Minnesota will face a turned over Rams roster, as just 18 players remain from that 2015 team. In Week 11, Los Angeles will look to break the Vikings’ four-game win streak over the Rams. And the visitors will do their best to preserve their own undefeated record away from the Coliseum.

“This is one of the few stadiums I have not been to yet,” McVay said. “They do a great job utilizing that home field advantage defensively with some of the things that they do, so that’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

While the Rams will be in unfamiliar territory at U.S. Bank Stadium, they will be up against a very familiar face in Vikings starting quarterback, Case Keenum. Keenum spent the last two years with the Rams — and parts of the 2014 season as well — before signing with Minnesota in early April.

As such, Sunday’s contest will pit the Rams former quarterback against many of his old teammates.

“There’s no weirdness,” right guard Jamon Brown. “When a guy leaves the team and goes to another team, we wish him the best and one thing Case has done is he’s had some success over there. We’re ready to see what he’s got.”

Keenum has had a very successful season with the Vikings after taking over for an injured Sam Bradford in Week 2. Since then, he has led Minnesota to a five-game win streak, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 1,914 yards and 11 touchdowns, including a career-best 304 yards and four touchdowns last weekend.

“It starts with Case,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. “Case is a mobile quarterback that can make plays on his feet. He gets out of the pocket and makes plays down the field.”

But Keenum won’t be the only member of the Vikings offense to keep an eye on. Minnesota’s offense also includes the dynamic wide receiver duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who have combined for over 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns this season.

“Thielen and Diggs are both outstanding receivers,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “I believe Diggs was leading the league [in receiving yards] before he got hurt and now Thielen’s right up there, so that tells you what they can do. They’re a handful, [so] we’re going to have to win some one-on-ones or play good zone coverage in certain downs.”

For the Rams’ defense, another important factor heading into Sunday’s game will be to remain aggressive and get after the football. Last week, the unit forced four takeaways and currently lead the league with 19 turnovers overall.

“It’s a direct correlation to wins and losses,” middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said of the takeaways. “For us, if we’re leading [in takeaways] we’ve really been undefeated. So it’s definitely something you look at and you try to do.” 

Offensively, L.A. has continued to roll, averaging a league-high 32.9 points per game. Quarterback Jared Goff is coming into Sunday’s contest fresh off of the best performance of his career, where he threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

“It looks like he’s a lot more comfortable in the things that they’re doing offensively,” Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Pressure doesn’t seem to faze him. It just looks like to me that he’s seeing things so much better. It looks like the game has really slowed down for him.”

But as Goff has said, the Vikings’ defense is one of the most formidable in the league. He said he feels Sunday will be the biggest test the Rams have faced this season.

“They’re tremendous on defense. No weaknesses, really, at every spot,” Goff said. “Upfront, the D-line, their linebackers are really good and the secondary, they’re really special too.”

“They’re great, everybody is great on their defense,” running back Todd Gurley added. “You have a great front seven and some great defensive backs with safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes [who] have been playing lights out this year. Linebackers Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks — [it’s] definitely going to be handful this week for sure.”

As Gurley referenced above, the Vikings defense is stacked with playmakers.

Defensive end Everson Griffen ranks No. 3 with 10.0 total sacks this season, while the defensive unit as a whole ranks among the top five in both passing (294.6) and rushing (81.3) yards allowed per game. In the secondary, Minnesota has one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Rhodes, while Smith has been a force to be reckoned with, as well.

“They’re a complete team and you can see why,” McVay said. “These guys are highly rated because they’re playing really good football [and are] efficient in all three phases. They’ve got great players to match good schemes, so it presents a great challenge for our guys.”

Overall, Sunday’s contest between the Rams and Vikings should be one of the best and most evenly-matched games of the week. Kickoff for the Week 11 contest is set for 10:00 a.m. and will be broadcast live on Fox. For more information on how to watch, click here.