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Opposition Intelligence and Research, Week 11: Los Angeles Edition

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A statistical look at Minnesota’s opponent on Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings
Both teams enter Sunday’s game 7-2. Which team will leave 8-2?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hey guys! Here’s the second article in my attempt to determine what each Vikings opponent will be doing on a week-by-week basis. This week’s focus? The Los Angeles Rams.

The Los Angeles Rams are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season. Their 7-2 record places them fourth in the NFC due to tiebreakers and they are currently undefeated on the road. They get to come into the stadium where the Vikings have gone 9-4 since they moved in and play in one of the better games this season has seen. Let’s see how the Rams have done so far this season.

Schedule

The Los Angeles Rams are currently tied for the weakest strength of schedule in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles at .398. Their wins have come against the Indianapolis Colts (3-7), San Francisco 49ers (1-9), Dallas Cowboys (5-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3), Arizona Cardinals (4-5), New York Giants (1-8) and the Houston Texans (3-6). Their losses have come at the hands of the Redskins (27-20) and the Seahawks (16-10).

Los Angeles has played like a good team should; they’ve kicked the everloving crap out of teams they should beat (the Giants and Colts), hung on against the 49ers (41-39), took advantage it being an even week to beat the Jags (27-17) and beat a Texans team still dealing with the loss of their starting quarterback Deshaun Watson. Los Angeles is currently on a four-game winning streak and on that streak, they’ve outscored their opponents 144-41. So yeah, their offense is clicking on all cylinders right now.

Most recent game

Los Angeles played the Houston Texans last week and the Texans actually managed to do a pretty good job of shutting down Los Angeles’ offense. Houston kept Los Angeles’ offense to four field goals in the first, second and fourth quarters but fell apart in the third quarter when they allowed the Rams to score three passing touchdowns.

The Rams’ three touchdowns all came on the arm of Jared Goff. His first touchdown was a 94-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods. His second touchdown went to Sammy Watkins on a 17-yard completion and his third came just 20 seconds later after the Rams strip-sacked Tom Savage and Goff hit Woods again, this time for a 12-yard score.

Goff passed for those three touchdowns and 355 yards while taking three sacks. Johnny Hekker, the Rams punter, went 1/1 for 6 yards on a failed fake punt on a 4th and 7. Todd Gurley rushed 11 times for 68 yards for an average of 6.2 yards per carry. Lance Dunbar rushed five times for 31 yards and also averaged 6.2 yards per carry.

Woods led the Rams with eight receptions on ten targets for 171 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Gurley was second on the Rams with six catches for 68 yards.

That’s how the Rams got through the game against the Texans. Now let’s look at what the Vikings will be facing on Sunday.

Offense

Ground game

The Rams operate a top-10 ground game this season, bolstered by one of the NFL’s top young running backs in Todd Gurley. Their ground game has been consistent the entire season, with just two games where they have rushed for fewer than 100 yards (their loss against the Redskins (97) and their win against the Colts (63)). So this is a team that runs the ball and runs it well.

Los Angeles’ rushing game

Player Attempts (Rank) Yards (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rushing touchdowns (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Player Attempts (Rank) Yards (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rushing touchdowns (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Todd Gurley 172 (4) 754 (4) 4.4 (t-14) 7 (t-1) 74 (11) 1.5% (13)
Tavon Austin 36 (t-72) 171 (71) 4.8 1 (t-54) 46 (2) -12.5% (16)
Malcolm Brown 37 (t-69) 138 (t-75) 3.7 1 (t-54) -17 -21.10%

So Gurley is obviously the bellcow in this offense and for good reason. He’s playing like the top running back he was drafted to be in 2015 as he’s top-five in attempts, yards and touchdowns. With Brown hurting his MCL against the Giants, Tavon Austin is the only other non-Gurley runner the Vikings will likely have to worry about against the Rams. Austin averages about four carries a game and with Brown down, he’s gotten 11 carries over the last two games. The Rams are third in attempts (276), fifth in yards (1159), fourth in rushing touchdowns (10) and thirteenth in yards per attempt (4.2). This is easily one of the strongest group games the Vikings will face all season long and a good way to test Minnesota’s improved run defense.

Football Outsiders: Offensive line

Los Angeles' Offensive Line Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed percentage (Rank) 2nd level yards (Rank) Open field yards (Rank)
Los Angeles' Offensive Line Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed percentage (Rank) 2nd level yards (Rank) Open field yards (Rank)
2017 4.63 (3) 41% (31) 24% (24) 1.47 (1) .66 (19)

So Los Angeles’ offensive line isn’t quite as bad as Washington’s was in last week’s analysis, obviously, but they have still struggled. Surprisingly enough, they are one of the worst teams in the league at short yardage situations, going just 7 for 17 in short-yardage opportunities (2/3 against the Skins for 1 TD, 2/6 for a TD vs the 49ers, 2/2 vs the Cowboys, 0/1 vs the Seahawks, 0/2 vs the Jaguars, 1/1 vs the Cardinals, 0/2 vs the Giants). Los Angeles’ ground game is only mediocre according to DVOA, scoring a -8.4%. Their running backs are tenth-worst at getting stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage and are below-average at getting yardage 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, backed up by the fact that their longest run on the season is 36 yards, tied for 38th in the league.

Passing Game

The Los Angeles Rams have one of the most, if not the most, effective passing game in the league right now. They have won games where they have passed for as few as 107 yards and as many as 339 yards. Their two losses have come when they have passed for for 275 yards and 235 yards, so there’s not a particular way that they have been shut down for a win thus far.

Los Angeles passing game

Player Targets Receptions Yards Receiving touchdowns Catch % DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank) DPI
Player Targets Receptions Yards Receiving touchdowns Catch % DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank) DPI
Robert Woods 59 39 622 4 66.10% 95 (19) 11.4% (21) 2/27
Cooper Kupp 54 32 417 3 59.30% 94 (20) 12.7% (19) 1/25
Todd Gurley 48 35 406 3 72.90% 69 (7) 16.6% (10) 0
Sammy Watkins 34 21 372 4 61.80% 117 32.00% 1/8
Tyler Higbee 33 17 209 1 51.50% N/A N/A 0
Gerald Everett 17 8 198 1 47.10% N/A N/A 0
Tavon Austin 12 7 43 0 58.30% -36 -54.60% 0

On a ranking scale, Los Angeles is 27th in passing attempts (284), sixth in passing yards (2341), seventh in passing touchdowns (16), and first in net yards per attempt (7.9). This efficiency on offense has allowed Los Angeles to have six players with triple digit receiving yards this season.

Tavon Austin, despite having Los Angeles’ second-highest cap hit, has been one of the worst wide receivers in the NFL and is used more in the ground game then the passing game right now.Everett is Los Angeles’ 2017 second-round pick and has been an absolute monster every time he touches the football; his 24.8 yards per catch would lead the NFL if he had enough plays to qualify. Tyler Higbee, the Rams’ other receiving tight end, hasn’t been quite as effective, but still has more than 200 yards receiving and one receiving touchdown.

Sammy Watkins has been the top of the second tier of Los Angeles’ receiving options, tallying 372 yards and four touchdowns. Gurley has been one of the better receiving backs in the NFL, totaling 406 yards and three receiving touchdowns in his touches. The Rams main offensive threats this season are wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods and I would expect Woods to draw Rhodes and Kupp to draw Waynes and Alexander.

One thing that is a noticeable difference between the Skins and the Rams is that the Rams, and in particular the Rams’ main receivers, have a much worse catch percentage than Washington’s receivers. This is partially due to the offense that each team runs and the quarterback each has under center.

As for their offensive line, they are playing particularly well this season. They are tied for fourth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate with an impressive 4.2% sack percentage allowed and have allowed just 13 sacks on the season, fifth in the NFL. 30% of the 13 sacks taken (4) have come in games where Los Angeles has lost, so pressure is very helpful in containing Goff.

Quarterback

Jared Goff was easily one of the three worst quarterbacks in the NFL last season. He did basically nothing well and he was basically cannon fodder for seven straight games. Now he’s playing for a new coach and it’s like he’s a new man.

Jared Goff

Player Comp./Att. (Comp %) Yards TD/INT Y/A (Rank) AY/A (Rank) Quarterback rating (Rank) QBR (rank) NY/A (Rank) ANY/A (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Player Comp./Att. (Comp %) Yards TD/INT Y/A (Rank) AY/A (Rank) Quarterback rating (Rank) QBR (rank) NY/A (Rank) ANY/A (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Jared Goff 172/281 (61.2%) 2385 16/4 8.5 (1) 9.0 (t-2) 101.5 (7) 53.7 (16) 7.81 (1) 8.28 (1) 635 (5) 23.3% (5)

Goff is playing like a stud this season, with only his completion percentage (61.2%; 25th in the NFL) and QBR keeping him out of the top-10 in every stat I look at in this article. This will be a game where the Vikings need all hands on deck, and the health of Everson Griffen will be paramount to whether the Vikings have a shot in Sunday’s game.

The Vikings getting pressure on Goff will be key to their winning the game, especially with how often the Rams use play-action to get their deep passing game going.

Everson Griffen’s presence in Minnesota’s pass rush will be critical. If he had to miss the Washington game in order to be healthy for this one, it will absolutely be worth it for Minnesota’s defense. Minnesota will also have to hope that Sendejo’s groin injury and the nicks that Xavier Rhodes sustained won’t keep them off the field as being aggressive with the Rams’ receivers will be huge for the Vikings keeping Goff in front of them.

Goff appears to be one of those odd quarterbacks who actually plays better on the road then he does at home. His completion percentage is decimal points better (likely due to having nearly 100 fewer passing attempts on the road), he’s thrown for twice as many touchdowns, less than half as many interceptions, has a QB rating over 25 points higher, has taken fewer sacks, has a higher yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt and yards per game. Basically the only part of his game that has been better at home has been his scrambling game.

Overall offensive efficiency

PFR Efficiency: LA Rams

Organization Offensive scoring % (Rank) Offensive turnover % (Rank) Average starting field position (Rank) Average time of drive (Rank) Avg. # of plays per drive (Rank) Avg. # of yards per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Organization Offensive scoring % (Rank) Offensive turnover % (Rank) Average starting field position (Rank) Average time of drive (Rank) Avg. # of plays per drive (Rank) Avg. # of yards per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Pro Football Reference 51.9% (1) 8.5 (26) 34 yard line (1) 2:36 (15) 5.70 (16) 33 (6) 2.58 (2)

Football Outsiders Efficiency: LA Rams

Organization Yards per drive (Rank) Points per drive (Rank) Avg. starting field position (Rank) Plays per drive (Rank) TOP per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate (Rank) Touchdowns per drive (Rank) Field goals per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs per drive (Rank) Average field position after kickoff (Rank) Pts. per red zone drive (Rank) TDs per red zone drive (Rank) Avg. lead at the beginning of drives (Rank)
Organization Yards per drive (Rank) Points per drive (Rank) Avg. starting field position (Rank) Plays per drive (Rank) TOP per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate (Rank) Touchdowns per drive (Rank) Field goals per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs per drive (Rank) Average field position after kickoff (Rank) Pts. per red zone drive (Rank) TDs per red zone drive (Rank) Avg. lead at the beginning of drives (Rank)
Football Outsiders 34.55 (5) 2.63 (2) 32.83 (1) 5.92 (11) 2:43 (13) .709 (8) .257 (6) .277 (1) .307 (2) .188 (6) 26.08 (6) 4.76 (18) .512 (22) 6.70 (1)

This is one hell of an offense that Sean McVay has put together. They consistently get good field position from a mix of a good return game (which I will cover later) and a ballhawking defense that has set them up in good position for scores on numerous occasions throughout the season (also covered later). Just about their only weakness is that they aren’t a great red zone team at the moment, which is likely one of the reasons why they kick so many field goals. If their offense was to take that next step where they increase the number of touchdowns they score inside the red zone, this offense would become one hell of a juggernaut. But, for now, they remain slightly limited in this area. The offense doesn’t turn the ball over that much, they are highly capable of chunk plays and they both have the ability to take it slow on drives and score in less than a minute if Goff sees a blown assignment.

Now on that cheery note, let’s see what Los Angeles brings to the table defensively.

Defense

Run Defense

LA Run Defense, 2016 & 2017

Year Attempts against (Rank) Rushing yards against (Rank) Rushing touchdowns against (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rush defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed (Rank) 2nd Level Yards (Rank) Open Field Yards (Rank)
Year Attempts against (Rank) Rushing yards against (Rank) Rushing touchdowns against (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rush defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed (Rank) 2nd Level Yards (Rank) Open Field Yards (Rank)
2017 237 (14) 1062 (24) 8 (22) 4.5 (27) -12.2% (15) 4.05 (14) 61% (15) 21% (19) 1.00 (6) 1.34 (31)
2016 424 (20) 1660 (16) 12 (13) 3.9 (10) -20.3% (6) 3.42 (1) 64% (19) 29% (1) 1.10 (11) 1.04 (30)

I thought that, considering how well the Rams were known for their defense under Jeff Fisher, I’d include a comparison between 2016 and 2017 for this first analysis to see what, if anything, has changed. Honestly, at least in run defense, it’s almost night and day. The Rams went from ranking in the top ten in yards per attempt against, run defense DVOA, adjusted line yards, and stuffed rank to outside (and well outside in the case of stuffed ranking) the top ten. The biggest reason? The Rams, when McVay assumed control, switched to a 3-4 defense from a 4-3.

As well as the Rams defense is playing in general (they are currently tops in DVOA), this switch has definitely weakened their run defense. One of the biggest reasons their run stuff percentage was so high last year was because Aaron Donald was playing as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Most teams, when faced with a short-yardage play, trust their offensive line and they usually run straight up the gut. Donald’s play against the run was such that teams would have difficultly blocking him and his other linemates on the interior long enough for their runner to get the necessary yardage. With him now playing as a 3-4 defensive end, his explosive ability up the middle is really rather blunted and teams have been able to run the ball straight down LA’s throat when they’ve needed to. Even worse for the Rams, most 3-4 teams are usually good at preventing “open field” yards and they have been even worse than last season at stopping it.

Pass Defense

Pass Defense: LA Rams

Team Attempts/Completions/Comp. % Passing yards against (Rank) Passing touchdowns against (Rank) Net yards per attempt (Rank) Passing DVOA (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
Team Attempts/Completions/Comp. % Passing yards against (Rank) Passing touchdowns against (Rank) Net yards per attempt (Rank) Passing DVOA (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
Los Angeles 172/300 (57.3%) 1837 (9) 11 (7) 5.6 (8) -24.9% (2) 8% (8)

So.....yeah, this is a pretty good passing defense. They have held opponents to a completion percentage under 58% (a very good amount, MN has allowed 62%), are second only to Jacksonville’s studly pass defense in DVOA and have the eighth-best sack rate in the NFL. The Rams come into their matchup against the Vikings with 11 of their players having recorded a sack (Vikings are still at nine). So yeah, this is a good defense. And I haven’t even gotten to the interceptions yet (but believe me, I will).

LA Rams defenders

Player Solo tackles Assisted tackles Sacks Passes defensed
Player Solo tackles Assisted tackles Sacks Passes defensed
Aaron Donald 17 5 5 2
Connor Barwin 20 4 4 0
Matt Longacre 12 5 4 0
Michael Brockers 29 7 3 3
Robert Quinn 9 6 2.5 0
Mark Barron 55 7 1 4
Trumaine Johnson 33 4 0 7
Lamarcus Joyner 19 6 0 4
Nickell Robey-Coleman 20 8 0 5
Alec Ogletree 41 16 2 4

Despite their shift to a 3-4 defense impacting their running game, there’s not a whole lot wrong with their passing defense. The Rams have allowed just two wide receivers to gain more than 100 yards against them, DeAndre Hopkins (111) and Pierre Garcon (142), with Dez Bryant being just two yards short (98). So it’s no tall task for the Rams to be beaten by a wide receiver, but it can be done. This is a pass defense that should not be taken lightly.

Defensive efficiency

PFR defensive efficiency: LA Rams

Organization Scoring % (Rank) Avg. defensive starting field position (Rank) Avg. drive time allowed (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Yards allowed per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Organization Scoring % (Rank) Avg. defensive starting field position (Rank) Avg. drive time allowed (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Yards allowed per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Pro Football Reference 27% (3) 29 yard line (23) 2:23 (5) 5.3 (5) 26.1 (7) 1.50 (3)

Football Outsiders efficiency: LA Rams

Organization Yards per drive allowed (Rank) Points per drive allowed (Rank) LOS per drive (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Time of possession allowed per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate against (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per drive (Rank) Field goals allowed per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs forced per drive Points allowed per red zone trip (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per red zone trip (Rank)
Organization Yards per drive allowed (Rank) Points per drive allowed (Rank) LOS per drive (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Time of possession allowed per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate against (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per drive (Rank) Field goals allowed per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs forced per drive Points allowed per red zone trip (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per red zone trip (Rank)
Football Outsiders 26.72 (6) 1.54 (4) 28.68 (22) 5.36 (5) 2:26 (5) .637 (4) .176 (10) .102 (1) .407 (21) .204 (26) 4.46 (11) .538 (18)

So....yeah, this is a stingy defense. They are very good at getting themselves off the field posthaste so most teams have to be efficient in their scoring drives against the Rams. They also have to balance that efficiency against not letting LA’s offense back onto the field too quickly as they have easily the most explosive offense so far this season. One of the flaws the Rams defense has is that they don’t force a whole lot of three-and-outs, so a team can get something going if they find the right rhythm against this defense. They are also just average inside the red zone; they are nearly top-ten in points allowed but are below-average in allowing red zone touchdowns. Basically any team that gets into the red zone against the Rams needs to make the drive count.

Turnovers

Like I said in last week’s article, turnovers are usually what separate the average teams from the elite teams. The average teams have games where they lose the turnover battle and games where they win it. Elite teams are almost always winning the turnover battle, even if they turn the ball over once or twice themselves. The Rams, unfortunately, are very good in this regard, both on offense and defense.

Turnovers: LA Rams

Side of ball Interceptions (Rank) Fumbles (Rank) Give/take (PFR) Turnover % (Rank) (FO) Turnovers per drive Interceptions per drive (Rank) Fumbles per drive (Rank)
Side of ball Interceptions (Rank) Fumbles (Rank) Give/take (PFR) Turnover % (Rank) (FO) Turnovers per drive Interceptions per drive (Rank) Fumbles per drive (Rank)
Offense 4 (4) 8 (28) 12 giveaways 8.5 (26) .079 (4) .040 (4) .040 (12)
Defense 12 (2) 7 (3) 19 takeaways 16.2 (3) .167 (4) .111 (3) .056 (10)

The Rams rank behind only the Ravens (13) in interceptions, so taking care of the ball will be of paramount concern for this game. The Rams already have two pick-sixes this season and I am sure they will be hunting for more against Case Keenum. Their defense has also been good at forcing fumbles, so the Vikings would do well to ensure they don’t have any issues with fumbling in this game.

As for LA’s offense, Goff has been careful with the football this season and only Tyrod Taylor, Alex Smith and Tom Brady have thrown fewer interceptions while starting every game for their team. The one issue that both Washington and Los Angeles appear to have in common is an issue with fumbles. Washington was and remains a bottom-three team when it comes to fumbles and if the Vikings are hoping for a takeaway against the Rams, they would do well to try and force a fumble. Todd Gurley currently leads all NFL running backs with five fumbles on the season, so Vikings defenders would do well to tear away at the ball as much as they can when it’s in Gurley’s hands.

Special Teams

Special teams will be a crucial part of Sunday’s game (as it usually is in most games). The Rams have what I consider to be one of the five best special teams units in the NFL right now, so the Vikings will, like with the rest of the Rams, have their work cut out for them.

Returners

LA’s return men

Player Punt returns (Rank) Punt return yards (Rank) Fair catches Punt return TDs (Rank) Yards per punt return (Rank) Kick returns (Rank) Kick return yards (Rank) Kick return TDs (Rank) Yards per kick return (Rank)
Player Punt returns (Rank) Punt return yards (Rank) Fair catches Punt return TDs (Rank) Yards per punt return (Rank) Kick returns (Rank) Kick return yards (Rank) Kick return TDs (Rank) Yards per kick return (Rank)
Pharoh Cooper 12 (t-26) 134 (16) 2 (t-43) 0 11.2 (t-8) 18 (t-2) 543 (1) 1 (t-1) 30.2 (7)
Tavon Austin 12 (t-26) 53 (35) 1 (t-48) 0 4.4 (54) 1 (t-70) 13 (t-84) 0 (t-4) 13 (t-80)

The player Minnesota has to watch out for, both on punt returns and kickoffs, is Pharoh Cooper. He has basically taken over as Los Angeles’ return man over Austin on both kickoffs and punt returns and he is nearly equally dangerous on both. He is one of three players to have housed a kickoff this season, leads the league in return yards, is second in returns and is seventh in average kick return. Our coverage teams will absolutely have to be on their A-games if we want to have any hope of containing Cooper.

Kicker

Kicking

Player 0-19 FGA/FGM 20-29 FGA/FGM 30-39 FGA/FGM 40-49 FGA/FGM 50+ FGA/FGM PAT's made
Player 0-19 FGA/FGM 20-29 FGA/FGM 30-39 FGA/FGM 40-49 FGA/FGM 50+ FGA/FGM PAT's made
Greg Zuerlein 1/1 5/5 9/10 9/9 4/4 30/30

Just a few years ago there was a question of whether Greg Zuerlein would ever be accurate enough to make it in the NFL. He was heavily compared to his draft classmate Blair Walsh early on and most thought after their rookie seasons that Zuerlein would be off the Rams before Walsh was off the Vikings. That, obviously, is not the case and the Rams are profiting from it. He’s currently third in the NFL in field goal accuracy, just behind both Josh Lambo and Dan Bailey, both of whom have only attempted 7 kicks this season (though both are a perfect 7/7). Anyway, Zuerlein is having the best season of his career as he currently leads the NFL in field goal attempts by four (29 to 25) and field goals made by six (28 to 22). He’s even currently on pace to shatter David Akers’ record for most made field goals in a season (44 in 2011). Oh, and he’s perfect on PAT’s.

Punter

ESPN: LA punter

Player Punts (Rank) Punt yards (Rank) Longest punt (Rank) Average punt (Rank) Net punt length (Rank) Blocked punts (Rank) Punts inside the 20 (Rank) Touchbacks (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punts returned (Rank) Punt return yardage (Rank) Punt return avg. yards
Player Punts (Rank) Punt yards (Rank) Longest punt (Rank) Average punt (Rank) Net punt length (Rank) Blocked punts (Rank) Punts inside the 20 (Rank) Touchbacks (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punts returned (Rank) Punt return yardage (Rank) Punt return avg. yards
Johnny Hekker 31 (29) 1478 (t-27) 67 (t-7) 47.7 (10) 44.5 (4) 0 (t-7) 15 (18) 2 (15) 5 (t-29) 12 (t-5 fewest) 58 (5) 4.8 (5)

Hekker is one of the best in the business and can flip the field on any given punt, no matter where he is on the field. He limits touchbacks, gives up basically nothing on returns and he has a good punt coverage team helping him out. Not a whole lot to see here other than the Vikings taking on yet another top-notch kicking/punting combo.

Conclusion

This will be a great test for the Vikings on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Vikings will find the Rams a better team to run against than in years past (something fantasy buffs should take advantage of, hint him) and should focus on establishing both Jet and Murray early. Unlike the Redskins, I’m not sure the Rams present a particularly forceful matchup in either’s favor, so I’d probably lean towards Jet taking the bulk of snaps/touches on the ground because his athleticism is better suited to taking advantage of Los Angeles’ tendency to give up longer runs on the ground and his skills in the screen game.

This will be Minnesota’s sixth consecutive game playing against a 3-4 defense and will easily present the toughest test for center Pat Elflein in directing traffic along the offensive line. I think this in particular will be a good test for Case Keenum as a starter. He likes to be aggressive with his passes, sometimes to a fault. The Rams have a pass defense that is only surpassed by the Jaguars in ability to take the ball away. Keenum will have to balance his aggressive nature to attack downfield with trying to hit wide receivers that are truly open, because this is the exact kind of defense that could spell the ending of his time as Minnesota’s starter if he doesn’t play well against.

As for Minnesota’s defense, health will be paramount. If they can have all 11 of their starters healthy and ready to go on Sunday, I will be confident about Minnesota’s chances. If any one of Sendejo, Rhodes or Griffen is out, that confidence goes down significantly. Our linebackers will be assigned the incredibly difficult task of snuffing out the multitude of running back screens the Rams like to run with Gurley and shutting them down. Fortunately, few defenses are built to blow up screens better than the Vikings. The Rams have a variety of options in the passing game and considering how up and down the defense played on Sunday against the Redskins, I have the sneaking suspicion that Zimmer will have his defense ready to put on a master class of shutting down an explosive offense this Sunday.

Because this is a home game, I’ll say the Vikings win by a touchdown, 28-21.