Dec 9, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; John Gagliardi, former football coach at Saint John
Tomorrow’s matchup between the Vikings and the Rams will likely be the most significant game of the season for both teams. A St. Louis win would vault the team ahead of Minnesota in the NFC rankings, one game closer to sneaking in the playoffs. A lot of talk heads been floated around about the recent, dismal play of Christian Ponder, and even more has been about the MVP caliber performance the Adrian Peterson is displaying. So, Ramblin’ Fan sat down with Dan Zinski, the editor over at The Viking Age, to get his take on the game. Here is what he had to say…
1. Since the midpoint of the season, the Vikings are 1-4 against teams at or above .500, and 0-3 on the road? What ONE thing might change those odds against the 6-6-1 St. Louis Rams?
Turnover battle. The Vikings have had issues on the road because they’ve coughed the ball up too much. They had a shot against the Packers in Lambeau until Christian Ponder threw a couple terrible picks. And Adrian Peterson’s early fumble against the Bears was key to that loss. This is not a team that can afford to give the ball away and fall down early. They’re not a big play offensive team that can get those points back readily. Ponder is the main offender. He just makes bad decisions sometimes. If he’s not careful with the ball they have no shot.
2. Adrian Peterson having more rushing yards than Christian Ponder has passing yards in the last half of the season is getting a ton of media play. What has changed in Ponder since the beginning of the season, and how will that change against the Rams, if at all?
The main thing that’s changed is no Percy Harvin. With Harvin on the field Ponder had that security blanket. They could throw short passes to Harvin and let him turn them into big plays. Their passing game was never great, even with Harvin in there, but at least with Harvin you gave the defense something they needed to adjust to. It allowed for the possibility of other things opening up. Obviously, Harvin is not coming back this week, so I don’t see Ponder and the passing game getting a lot better. We’ve already concluded that their other receivers are trash.
3. The St. Louis Rams are 4-0-1 against the Top 6 rushing teams in the league right now, having beat the Redskins and the Seahawks early in the season, beating Buffalo last week, and winning/tieing with the 49ers in WK 10 and WK 13. How will the Vikings manage offensively with Harvin on IR and the Rams likely stacking the box against Peterson?
Teams have been stacking the box against Peterson for weeks and it hasn’t mattered. In Peterson’s mind, it actually gives him an advantage because with fewer safeties back, he has the chance to break more big plays if he can make it through the second level. It would be nice to take advantage of all those stacked boxes with some deep pops but the Vikes have had trouble finding anyone who can get open deep even against single coverage. And Ponder doesn’t exactly deliver a good deep ball. Basically, they’ll just keep handing it to Peterson and trusting him to make things happen. Doesn’t really matter what the defense does.
4. Doug Martin rushed for 135 yards and Lynch for 124 yards in similar, run-oriented offensive systems. Steven Jackson may be old, but did recently pound out 101 yards on the 49ers and 81 on the Jets superior rush defenses. How will the Vikings slow Jackson? Overall defensive plan?
Depends on how the Rams attack. The Vikes have been particularly susceptible to misdirection/draws/screens, that sort of stuff. Zone runs also. Over-aggressive front four, lack of anchoring nose tackle, somewhat undisciplined linebackers and also just not wrapping up. They’ve had an infuriating number of missed tackles. Basically it comes down to them shoring up their technique and not letting guys get 10 when they should get 2. I’m not sure how much better that’s going to get at this point of the season.
Since I have zero faith in Christian Ponder right now, I have to pick the Rams. Vikings have just not looked good on the road. And you have to figure one of these weeks Peterson is going to have a bad game. He can’t keep up his pace. The Rams would seem good candidates to stop him. I’m picking St. Louis 17-10.