OVERVIEW: “Defense wins Championships”…it’s a tried and true mantra in the sport of American football and no game on the Week 9 docket exemplifies that more than the Rams (4-3) at the Vikings (5-2). Both teams landed among the Top-5 in BES Defense in our latest BES Rankings and feature two of the league’s leading rushers. Therefore, to say this will be a highly physical contest is putting it quite mildly.
KEY MATCHUP: Vikings Offensive Line vs. Rams Front-Seven
If the Vikings are to have any success through the air they must provide second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater the protection he needs to engineer drives. This would prevent the Rams from crowding the box to stifle All-Pro halfback Adrian Peterson who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and ranks third in the league with 633 yards rushing.
The Rams have a Pass Pressure score of 2.94 going against a 2.47 Pass Protection score for the Vikings thus the expectation is they will get hits on Bridgewater and force him from the pocket. That shifts the primary focus to stopping Peterson and putting the Vikings offense in some difficult third-down situations where they rank 17th in the league with a conversion rate of 37 percent.
X-FACTOR: Rams HB Todd Gurley
Gurley has drawn comparisons to Peterson as both display a brutally explosive style of running that punishes defenders or makes them miss in the open field. Gurley is gaining 6.1 yards per carry and will face a banged-up Vikings front-seven already allowing 4.4 yards per rush.
The Rams are 3-1 since Gurley’s injection into the starting lineup in Week 4. However, that one loss came on a previous road trip to the NFC North where, despite Gurley racking up 159 yards on 30 carries, the Rams fell to the Packers (6-1) 24-10.