Billed as one of the best NFL games of Week 11, Rams-Vikings may not live up to the hype.
You’ve heard it if you haven’t said it yourself, “this is the toughest game yet.” In Week 11 it applies to both the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, the game is being described with other familiar phrases we hear all too often. However, we haven’t associated phrases like “showdown or “game of the week” with the Rams, that is until this upcoming matchup with the Vikings.
Exciting, isn’t it?
I want to buy in. As a Rams fan, I need to buy in. This year’s excitement has truly been missed for a number of years. It’s why we love sports, right? It gets our blood boiling. Our neck hairs standing. And let’s face it, it beats gardening on Sundays. There’s even an added bonus this year. We Rams fans are the ones, for a change, standing around the water coolers Monday mornings with our chests out. Not just for a game here or there, but for the season it appears.
So why am I not as excited about dropping shiny new coins in the hype machine?
Because upon further inspection I was let down. My team’s Week 11 opponent, the also 7-2 Vikings, are not as billed. At least, not in my humble opinion. It most certainly is a showdown with playoff implications, but it doesn’t scream, “Game of the Week!”
Hear me out.
Week 11 Preview/Prediction: Rams vs. Vikings
Yes, Minnesota is riding a five-game winning streak, which is fascinating in itself. They are playing good football, this can’t be denied. But hey, you’re not talking to a ‘typical’ Rams fan. You’re talking to the kind that willingly endured every minute of the past several seasons. And guess what? Case Keenum is not beating this year’s Rams team with this year’s Jared Goff playing the way he’s playing. His offense is not outscoring this year’s Rams’ offense with better blocking and Todd Gurley not only back in elite form, but also a threat by air. And he is certainly not overcoming that human pressure cooker named Aaron Donald with the backup pressure plan Wade Phillips no doubt has in mind.
Okay, I hear you, “enough opinion. How about some facts?” Fine, but I also hear some opposing arguments.
So far, I’ve heard, “how can you say the Rams are better? The Vikings beat the Washington Redskins and the Rams lost to them.”
True statement, but it means very little now. This isn’t college football where teams get ranked based on their first two weeks as well as their last two. Do you really believe this young team in a new system hit their ultimate stride by Week 2? And weren’t the Redskins healthier then? I didn’t see Washington’s tight end Jordan Reed giving the Vikings fits last week, did you?
You can make a case for a hot team on a five-game winning streak playing their next game on their home field. It’s the reason the Vikings opened on SportsBookReview at -2½. Their consensus now has the Rams at +1. Keenum starting over a more mobile Teddy Bridgewater has nothing to do with that, I’m sure. And wait, let’s look at that ‘home field advantage’ where the Rams are concerned.
The Vikes play in a dome. To this I say, quicker surface, quicker Donald, quicker Tavon Austin, and quicker breaks to the passes Keenum throws by Trumaine Johnson and company. That’s just a few mentions. Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron looked pretty quick back in that dome in St. Louis.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Minnesota isn’t a talented team. They’re plenty talented and well-coached. But here’s where you lose me completely if you’re trying to convince me that foreseeing a Vikings victory is justifiable:
The competition of both teams in a side-by-side examination says it all.
If you agree that balanced team’s are usually the best-built postseason teams, then the edge here decidedly goes to the Rams. In fact, in each team’s last six games alone, the Rams have played and beat three of the NFL’s top six rushing teams (Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Dallas Cowboys). And of these six, the Rams are No. 5. They play the other two teams I left out (New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles) within the next four weeks.
Minnesota has not played any of these teams in their last six games (New Orleans was Week 1) and they themselves rank outside NFL’s top 10 in the same, total rushing yards average per game.
Of course, I’m kidding about not being excited. Another Rams blowout would tickle me pink! But this game is sure to lack the soap-opera drama of 2015 when Minnesota’s head coach Mike Zimmer cried aloud about his players being hit too hard and too late by Jeff Fisher/Greg Williams-taught squads. Another Rams romp just might give the man something new to whine about, spicing things up a bit. You know how Hollywood loves a good drama.
My Prediction: Rams 31, Vikings 13