Skip to main content

Vikings-Rams: 5 things you can count on

No Dalvin Cook...no problem?
Alexander Mattison

At 7-7, the Minnesota Vikings control their own destiny for the final playoff spot in the NFC. Standing in their way are the Los Angeles Rams who have won their past three games and are making a push toward a division title. 

Like many things this season, it won't be easy. But here are five things you can count on when the Vikings hit the field in another must-win game.

1. Alexander Mattison replacing Dalvin Cook's production

The Vikings got bad news on Thursday when Dalvin Cook was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list. While the Vikings have not confirmed his vaccination status, he has followed the protocols for unvaccinated players this season, meaning he will not be available against the Rams.

Cook is a big loss but the Vikings have a capable backup in Alexander Mattison. In four starts dating back to last season, Mattison has averaged 102.5 yards per game and has four total touchdowns. More importantly, the Vikings are 3-1 in those starts, which bodes well to get some production on the ground.

The Rams are a tough matchup, ranking fourth in Football Outsiders DVOA metric against the run. But if Mattison can make the running game a threat, it should open up things for the passing attack.

2. Kirk Cousins playing in pain

Like Clubber Lang talking smack to reporters in Rocky III, it's fair to predict pain in Sunday's matchup. For Kirk Cousins, that will be taken to another level as he'll reportedly be playing with a cracked rib.

On top of that, the Vikings have to deal with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The All-Pro is two weeks removed from collecting 14 pressures against the Arizona Cardinals. To make matters worse, Mason Cole was placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury, meaning Oli Udoh will return to the starting lineup.

With an NFL-high 15 penalties this season, there's a good chance Udoh will be giving out free hugs for Christmas. But for a quarterback that prefers everything go to plan, Cousins's situation is less than ideal.

3. Justin Jefferson vs. Jalen Ramsey stealing the show

If you like a good wide receiver/cornerback matchup, Sunday will be a good day to break out the popcorn. 

Justin Jefferson will get the toughest task of his NFL career as he'll go up against Jalen Ramsey. While Jefferson ranks third in Pro Football Focus's receiver grades, Ramsey grades as the second-best cover corner and hasn't allowed more than 75 yards in a game this season.

Any offensive game plan should start with getting Jefferson the ball but we've seen the offense struggle when it faces a combination of pressure and coverage. Perhaps the Rams won't double Jefferson and leave Ramsey in a one-on-one matchup. But with Adam Thielen out, the Vikings need Jefferson to win this battle.

4. Matthew Stafford's revenge against Mike Zimmer

Since his arrival in 2014, Mike Zimmer has had his way against Matthew Stafford. In 13 games, the Vikings have gone 8-5 against Stafford with wins in their past six meetings. Zimmer has also found a way to pressure him, averaging 3.1 sacks per game in that stretch.

But some of that may have had to do with Stafford's former team. While Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions served as a security blanket for the Zimmer regime, Stafford is thriving under Sean McVay, who has given him all of the weapons he can handle.

That includes Cooper Kupp, who is on pace to break Calvin Johnson's record for receiving yards in a season. The Rams also doubled down by adding Odell Beckham Jr., who has three touchdowns in five games with the Rams.

With both stars going up against Mackensie Alexander (87th of 88 qualifying corners per PFF) and Patrick Peterson (67th), Stafford could finally have the supporting cast to foil Mike Zimmer's defense.

5. The Vikings will have their annual December disaster

Over the past couple of seasons, the Vikings have had a December game that has ripped the hearts out of Vikings fans.

In 2016, it was a no-show against the Indianapolis Colts followed by the defensive backs going rouge in Green Bay. In 2018, it was a beating by the Chicago Bears. In 2019, the Packers obliterated the Vikings on Monday Night Football. In 2020, Alvin Kamara played The Grinch by scoring six touchdowns on Christmas Day.

It may be the day after Christmas but the Vikings are poised to drop some coal in your stockings. They are depleted due to injuries and COVID and the matchups indicate a thorough beating at the hands of a true playoff contender.

The Vikings' playoff hopes won't completely die with a loss but this doesn't have the look of a playoff team. Eventually, the bottom will fall out and it could very well happen on Sunday afternoon.

Prediction: Rams 31, Vikings 7

Next Up

Xcel Energy Center

NHL announces make-up dates for Wild postponements

The Wild will play 40 games in the final 77 days of the regular season.

the mayo clinic - edit

Group says Mayo should be 'severely punished' over research puppy's death

The puppy died two days after undergoing a procedure at a Mayo research facility.

FLickr - minneapolis police - Tony Webster - Feb 2020 - crop

Charges: Man kidnapped woman, sexually assaulted her at gunpoint

The suspect faces three separate felony charges.

mn state capitol january 17 2021

St. Cloud 'Boogaloo Boi' who discussed attack on MN Capitol gets 2 years

He was charged with illegally possessing a machine gun.

Chris Smith

Gophers add All-Ivy League D-tackle from Harvard

Chris Smith will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

school bus

High school basketball team returns from game to find bus driver dead

Members of the girls team returned to the bus to find the driver unresponsive.

covid-19 testing site sign

Minnesota AG sues COVID testing site, alleging it sent false results

Sometimes the company didn't send people their results at all, the lawsuit alleges.

optum headquarters chad davis wikimedia commons

UnitedHealth Group says it made $287B last year, $24B of it profit

The corporation's Optum business represented a significant chunk of that total.

covid

Omicron may have already peaked in Minnesota

Reported cases lag what's happening in real time, so the newly reported cases over the next week or so will still be very high.

MnDot snow plow cam I-35 12-10-21

MnDOT reveals 50 snowplow name finalists

Voting is open through Wednesday, Jan. 26.

gov tim walz

Walz's $2.7B infrastructure plan includes $940M for climate projects

Projects will help Minnesota prevent or adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts, the governor says.

Related

Justin Jefferson

Vikings-49ers: 5 things you can count on

Sunday's matchup is a pivotal game in the NFC playoff picture.

Alexander Mattison

Vikings-Lions: 5 things you can count on

It's a great time for the Vikings to play the Lions.

Eric Kendricks

Vikings-Steelers: 5 things you can count on

After an embarrassing loss to the Lions, can the Vikings get it together?

Danielle Hunter

Vikings-Lions: 5 things you can count on happening

Can the Vikings get a win over the depleted Lions?

Dalvin Cook

Vikings vs. Chargers: 5 things you can count on

Will the Vikings melt down in Los Angeles?

Dalvin Cook

Vikings vs. Ravens: 5 things you can count on

Can the Vikings right the ship in Baltimore?

Oli Udoh

Vikings-Cardinals: 5 things you can count on happening

The Vikings need a win in the desert but will they get one on Sunday?

Mike Zimmer

Vikings-Packers: 5 things you can count on

Do the Vikings stand a chance without Kirk Cousins?