Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire
Each week, our writers will take a look at the fantasy-relevant things to watch for in every upcoming game. Today, it’s the Thursday night Week 4 matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams.
Oh last week? Yeah, we don’t talk about last week. To steal from legendary coach Bill Belichick, “We’re on to Los Angeles. It’s nothing about the past, nothing about the future, right now we are preparing for Los Angeles.” This week, the Minnesota Vikings are taking on the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams and their high flying offense and shutdown defense. This is not a matchup that is for the faint of heart. On top of that it is on Thursday Night Football and on the road in Los Angeles so the recipe for disaster is written all over this one for the Vikings. However the Vikings (1-1-1) are pissed. I mean they have to be, right? After starting the season with a win and a tie, they hosted Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills and absolutely blew it, and that is all we will say about that. Now let’s take a deeper dive in to what we have in store for Thursday night.
What is the outlook on Dalvin Cook?
As of now, Dalvin Cook, who missed week 3 with a hamstring injury, has gotten in limited practices the past two days. I would have liked to see him get in a full practice to feel comfortable about him starting. Regardless, I am not liking his outlook and think he is ruled out or limited against a stout Rams front. My guess is this is a pass heavy attack with Aqib Talib on the IR and Marcus Peters banged up and possibly sitting out as well.
How will the Vikings offense rebound from the Week 3 loss to the Bills?
As I said previously, the Rams secondary is banged up right now. They went from arguably the best duo of corners in the league to mop up duty in one week. This bodes well for Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. But come on, it always works out for Thielen. I think Kirk Cousins takes some sacks in this one, but hopefully rubs some pine tar on the hands so he can hold on to the football this week. Look for Captain Kirk to spin it downfield often to his two stud WRs who will really have no one to match them defensively if Peters is forced to sit.
Kirk Cousins: 33/46 303 yards, 3 TDs, 1INT
Stefon Diggs: 4 receptions, 77 yards, 2 TD
Adam Thielen: 10 receptions, 112 yards, 1 TD
How can the Vikings Defense slow down Todd Gurley and company?
Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. This is a task that not many are able to do against the craftiness of Rams HC Sean McVay. I think the Vikings will have a great first quarter, maybe even first half, in stopping the Rams high powered offense. But just like a boxer luls an opponent to sleep with jabs, one after another, the Rams will have one big play that swings the momentum their way and keeps it there, sending the Vikings to an ugly 1-2-1, not a good place to be with a resurgent Chicago Bears team and a team with Aaron Rodgers on it. I imagine that Todd Gurley once again showcases why he is the best running back playing the game right now and the Vikings, like so many others, get overwhelmed in a hurry.
Score Prediction: 31-21 Los Angeles Rams
One final question, what went wrong in the loss against Buffalo?
We are on to Los Angeles.
Can the Rams keep the Vikings’ front 7 at bay?
I am among those who think week three was an outlier for the Vikings’ defense. For one, QB Kirk Cousins and the offense were simply stifled by the, then 0-2, Buffalo Bills. I guess being a 16+ point underdog can do some good for rallying a team. It certainly had the defensive line at another level as they forced three fumbles – two recovered by Buffalo – and also coerced an interception. They also held Minnesota to 45 yards in the entire first half! I’m sure you read the ‘What We Saw’ article from this past week, but it bears repeating – the Vikings were not ready to play. They’ll probably be ‘chomping at the bit’ to regain form, albeit they will be without DE Everson Griffen and CB Marcus Sherels. Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer will probably be dialing up plenty of pressure with all kinds of imbalanced blitzes or simple stunts.
Given all that, I still hedge my confidence toward the plethora of options the Rams have, not to mention the mind of Rams’ Sean McVay. If there’s a guy who can figure out this defense, it’s McVay. Last year they were shut down, losing 24-7, but I’ll chalk that up to being a rookie signal caller. This year, he’ll have more tape to analyze. I’d look for the Rams to start with a heavy dosage of shorter passes, screens and have a similar amount of pre-snap motion to keep the linebackers honest. In summation, if you own any Rams skill players in fantasy, trust that they will break through and have Minnesota back on their heels before long.
Can the Rams’ receivers take advantage of some key injuries?
The simple answer is yes. I basically gave away the recipe for success in the prior paragraph, but given the way the trio of WRs Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have been playing, there shouldn’t be any doubt they will find a way to make plays. Now, they haven’t really faced the caliber of defense that the Vikings are, but facing the Chargers in week three was a good warmup. Now, against the Chargers, the Rams put up 354 yards through the air. It’d be pretty bold to say the same will happen tonight, but let’s not totally dismiss the possibility. Yes, someone will have to deal with being guarded by all-world corner, Xavier Rhodes. But, what about when he isn’t shadowing someone? Will he ‘travel’ and stay on Cooks, exclusively? Or will he stay on one side? Either way, that leaves two main options for QB Jared Goff to work with. The Vikings’ other star corner is Trae Waynes, but he’s banged up and it’ll be interesting to see if he can hold his own. It’ll be a collective effort, getting RB Todd Gurley II which could open up passing lanes with play-action schemes.
Can the Rams’ pass rush cover up their own injury-ridden bunch?
The follow-up question would be whether you doubt DTs Aaron Donald and Ndomokung Suh’s ability to disrupt any game. Against the Bills, the Vikings surrendered lots of pressure to the dismay of Kirk Cousins, as it led to those game-altering turnovers I mentioned earlier. Can they mimic the Bills or will it be a similar game to the one versus the LA Chargers? Last week, the Rams collectively allowed 260 yards to QB Philip Rivers and more than five yards per carry to RB Melvin Gordon. That was in a game where both star CBs Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters played the majority of the game, before departing with injuries. It’ll be paramount for Donald and Suh to provide some aid to the backup corners. It’s going to be a real challenge holding these receivers, for both teams, in check. We’ll see which side is up to the task.
QB Jared Goff: 26/36, 295 yards, 2 touchdowns
RB Todd Gurley II: 18 Car, 85 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 Rec, 40 yards
WR Brandin Cooks: 6 Rec, 83 yards
WR Cooper Kupp: 7 Rec, 79 yards, 1 touchdown
WR Robert Woods: 5 Rec, 80 yards, 1 touchdown