St. Louis Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings Preview and Prediction

Even though he's played in just five games, Rams rookie RB Todd Gurley is fifth in the NFL in rushing

Don't look now but the St. Louis Rams (4-3) are in second place in the NFC West. The Rams have won three of their last four games and are 3-0 against division opponents.

 

Minnesota (5-2) also is in second place in the NFC North. The Vikings have a three-game winning streak and have won four of their last five matchups.

 

Both teams look to gain momentum in their respective divisions in a Week 9 matchup in Minneapolis. Here's a preview and prediction for Sunday's game.

 

St. Louis at Minnesota

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Minnesota -2

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Passing of the torch?
Rams rookie Todd Gurley has played fantastic in his debut season. He leads the NFL with 115.0 yards per game and is fifth in rushing with 575 yards on 94 carries.

 

Gurley's managed to bounce back from an ACL tear to have one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in recent memory. Does it remind you of anyone?

 

Not only was Adrian Peterson the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 2007, but he also managed to win the 2012 NFL MVP just months after knee surgery. Peterson rushed for a career-best 2,097 yards — which is the second highest single-season total in NFL history.

 

But the Vikings' legend isn't ready to pass the torch just yet, as he's made yet another successful comeback in 2015. Peterson ranks third with 633 rushing yards and 90.4 yards per game. Sunday's matchup will feature the best running back of the past decade and the player who could hold that distinction for the next decade.
 

2. Will Stefon Diggs be sidelined by a hamstring injury?

No seriously, how great is he? If you want to talk about breakout rookies in 2015, you have to mention the Vikings' wide receiver.

 

Diggs became the first rookie in NFL history to record 85-plus receiving yards in each of his first four career games, according to Randall Liu, NFL Director of NFC Football Communications. But the rookie phenom could miss Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury.

 

Minnesota would benefit from having Diggs in its lineup given his immediate success and importance to its passing attack.

3. Vikings' O-line vs. Rams' D-line
Minnesota's biggest weakness is its offensive line. The Vikings have allowed 75 QB hurries and rank No. 23 overall in with a 75.7 pass-blocking efficiency rating, according to Pro Football Focus.

 

St. Louis has seen consistent success from its defensive line, despite ranking 27th in team sacks. The Rams' starters — Aaron Donald (28), Michael Brockers (8), Robert Quinn (20) and William Hayes (17) — have combined for 73 QB hurries in 2015. Nick Fairley has six hurries.
 

Final Analysis

 

Minnesota needs to provide protection for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings were seconds away from a fourth-quarter rally against Denver before Bridgewater's pocket collapsed and led to a fumble on their final drive.

Still, Minnesota is 3-0 at home and looks like a complete offense — despite the struggles in the trenches. Peterson is due for another historic performance after recording his third 100-yard game of 2015 last week at Chicago.

 

The Vikings will win a tough game at home to pressure Green Bay after it suffered its first loss in Week 8.
 

Prediction: Vikings 17, Rams 13

 

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.

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