Both the Minnesota Vikings (7-6) and St. Louis Rams (6-6-1) are playing with their seasons on the line in Week 15 of the NFL season. St. Louis is a long shot but can't get back in the playoff hunt without a big home win over the Vikes.
Likewise, the Vikings are on the outside looking in on the wild-card playoff race and must win this week's matchup in St. Louis. Last week's win over the Chicago Bears was huge, but it was all for nothing if the team comes up short against the Rams.
St. Louis has looked much improved on defense this season but hasn't been able to put it all together offensively. If it can find a way to run the football and minimize the risk to Sam Bradford posed by the Vikings' pass rush, it will be able to stay in the game and possibly come away with the win.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know and a little bit more about this weekend's pivotal matchup.
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo.
When: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV
Betting Line: St. Louis (-3), according to Covers
Minnesota Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/11/2012)
|DE Jared Allen||Shoulder, Back||Probable|
|LB Jasper Brinkley||Shoulder||Probable|
|DT Letroy Guion||Shin||Probable|
|DB A.J. Jefferson||Concussion||Questionable|
|P Chris Kluwe||Left knee||Probable|
|T Phil Loadholt||Knee||Probable|
|TE Kyle Rudolph||Shoulder||Probable|
|C John Sullivan||Ribs, Knee||Probable|
|CB Antoine Winfield||Knee||Probable|
St. Louis Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/11/2012)
|WR Danny Amendola||Foot||Questionable|
|LB Mario Haggan||Elbow||Questionable|
|RB Steven Jackson||Foot||Probable|
|TE Mike McNeil||Thigh||Out|
|C Scott Wells||Knee||Probable|
What's At Stake?
Minnesota hopes to continue its push for the playoffs after a big Week 14 win over the Chicago Bears. Its currently on the outside looking in, though, as Dallas, Washington, Seattle and Chicago have the edge on them. A loss here would cripple its playoff hopes and put the St. Louis Rams back into contention.
The Rams are just one game behind the Vikings. Their win over Buffalo positioned them nicely down the stretch. If they can win their remaining games against Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Seattle, they could find themselves in a very different place: the playoffs.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
Does "All Day" even need an explanation?
Peterson has been the best, most consistent and most explosive fantasy running back this season. Remember when you didn't pick him at the top of the first round because of concerns about his rehab?
The Vikes star RB is red hot right now and has proven he can put up yards against anyone. After a slow start with only one 100-yard rushing game in his first six games, Peterson has failed to rush for under 100 yards since.
St. Louis' defense has struggled against the run at times but is coming off of two games in a row of holding its opponent to under 65 yards rushing. Peterson will have something to say about that in Week 15.
Rams RB Steven Jackson
Despite Steven Jackson's struggles this season, the veteran back will likely be the best chance the Rams have of winning this game. Minnesota has struggled against the run at times this season and a heavy dose of Jackson could be problematic for the unit. Overall, the Vikings are giving up nearly 15 fantasy points per game on the ground this season.
Jackson, though, is averaging just 8.7 points per game. With the importance of this game and the team's struggles in protecting Bradford, Jackson must be a big part of the game plan and will show up big for his team this week.
What They Are Saying
Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson gave an interesting tidbit to ESPN 1500 in Minnesota about Rams slot receiver Danny Amendola on Tuesday:
Only Lance Moore and Victor Cruz have gained more yards per route run amongst primarily slot receivers this season than Amendola. He has gained 2.42 yards for every route he has run from the slot.
Amendola has missed the last two games, though and may not play again this week in St. Louis.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said Amendola has a "much better chance" to play, according to StLouisRams.com.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier addressed a question about QB Christian Ponder's ability to throw the deep ball during a press conference on Dec. 10, according to Vikings.com:
There are still some things that he does get a little off-kilter with his mechanics. We’ll keep working with him on his mechanics. That’s a major part of a quarterback’s success, whether it be moving around in the pocket, to the left, or stepping up or moving to the left or the right.
Key Matchup: Rams front seven against Peterson
No matter what the Rams do, they are going to have to keep their focus on Peterson. Putting eight or nine men in the box won't be enough. They will need to tackle and read plays effectively, especially the James Laurinaitis-led linebacker crew.
Peterson can hurt teams in so many ways, including his cutback and second-chance yard opportunities. He doesn't go down on first contact, and just when defenses think they've bottled him up, bam, he's running back across the field for more yardage.
Minnesota can be as good as any team in the league if it gets Peterson going. The Vikes should be able to do that in this one and ride the play-action pass to victory. St. Louis will keep it close until a Peterson TD run seals it in the fourth quarter.
Vikings 28, Rams 17