VIKINGS (1-1-1) AT RAMS (3-0)
Line: Rams by 7; O/U: 49.5
TV: Ch. 5, NFL Network, 8:20 p.m.
My first thoughts when seeing that the Rams opened as a touchdown favorite over the Vikings: That’s a lot of points, but how can you bet against these Rams? They’ve covered all three of their wins with scores of 33-13, 34-0 and 35-23. Sean McVay’s offense, led by Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and a number of talented receivers, appears unstoppable.
But then something happened. As is often the case after an NFL week, the injuries started to be reported and it’s hard to ignore the Rams’ setbacks. Cornerback Aqib Talib suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday and is out a while, and fellow starting corner Marcus Peters strained his calf and is unlikely to play Thursday night. The Rams are going to score their points, but will the defense be able to cover this spread?
The Vikings are still an NFC playoff contender despite last week’s 27-6 loss to the 16.5-point underdog Bills in Minnesota, a stunning result that sent shock waves through survivor pools. The Vikings were down 10-0 in an instant and never recovered as the offensive line was Bill-dozed. That’s a big issue against Aaron Donald and the Rams, but expect Mike Zimmer’s team to regroup and counter with quick passes. Kirk Cousins has Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, a solid 1-2 receiving punch that doesn’t get enough credit. They should have success against the Rams’ secondary cornerbacks, and that’s the main reason why I think the Vikings will cover. Running back Dalvin Cook may play, which is an added boost.
The two teams met last year in Minnesota, a 24-7 Vikings win in Week 11. The Vikings were the only team to slow down the Rams’ high-octane offense. Cousins had success against the Rams, too. He led the Redskins to a 27-20 Week 2 win in Los Angeles, besting his former offensive coordinator McVay.
The Rams’ offense should be able to pull this win out. Don’t be surprised, though, if the Vikings have a chance to win late. Often when a team gets embarrassed, especially as a big home favorite, it responds the next week. And the silver lining about that upset was the Vikings don’t have to wait a whole week to get back out there and change the narrative. Cousins & Co. keep this inside the number.
The pick: Vikings