St. Louis Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings: Rams' Week 1 Game Preview

Steven GerwelContributor IIISeptember 4, 2014

St. Louis Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings: Rams' Week 1 Game Preview

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    Seth Perlman/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Rams are set to host the Minnesota Vikings at the Edward Jones Dome for the season opener of the 2014 NFL season. 

    Both teams finished with disappointing sub-.500 records in 2013, so both fanbases are eager to see their teams start the season on a high note with a Week 1 victory. Both teams need this win, but only one will come out on top. 

    The Rams will be counting on their stout defense and relentless pass rush to get the job done, while the Vikings will depend on Adrian Peterson to carry the team to victory.

    Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET, and the game will air on Fox. This article will preview the matchup and provide a prediction while also updating you on injuries and the latest headlines.

    During the game, be sure to stop by and follow our live blog, which will provide up-to-date commentary and analysis throughout the game.   

News and Notes

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Greg Robinson Will Start Career on the Bench

    The Rams used a lofty No. 2 overall draft pick to snag Greg Robinson—Auburn's dominate offensive tackle from the 2013 season—but fans will have to wait for his NFL debut. 

    According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, Robinson will start his career on the bench. The popular assumption was that Robinson would be an immediate starter at left guard, but the Rams will instead depend on Rodger Saffold and Davin Joseph to man the guard positions. 

    At first glance, this might seem like discouraging news considering how high Robinson was drafted last May. However, this demotion has less to do with Robinson's play and more to do with the revival of Joseph, who has seemingly regained the health and effectiveness that made him a Pro Bowler in Tampa Bay.

    If you're still not convinced, just remember that All-Pro Robert Quinn didn't even dress for his first NFL game in 2011 and former perennial Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace started just nine games as a rookie after being selected No. 1 overall by the Rams in 1997.

    Robinson will be in the lineup eventually this season; it's just a matter of when. 

     

    Adrian Peterson Feeling Confident

    The St. Louis defense is well-aware that containing future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson will be the biggest obstacle on Sunday, but Peterson is far from convinced that the Rams can stop him. 

    In fact, when ABC News asked Peterson to make a prediction for Sunday, he confidentially claimed that he'll run one into the end zone on his very first carry. 

    Surely, the St. Louis defense is not thrilled with that prediction. Perhaps Peterson's comments will provide fuel for the Rams and force the defense to step up to the challenge. 

Injury Report

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The NFL injury report lists the players and outlines their participation throughout the past week of practice, but specific details of the injury will not be made official until we get closer to kickoff. 

    As of now, here is the injury report information that is currently available:

    Minnesota Vikings

    • RB Zachary Line (Did Not Participate)
    • LB Michael Mauti (Did Not Participate)
    • LB Brandon Watts (Did Not Participate)
    • CB Jabari Price (Full Participation)
    • WR Rodney Smith (Full Participation)
    • T Mike Harris (Limited Participation)

     

    St. Louis Rams

    • CB Trumaine Johnson (Did Not Participate)
    • OL Barrett Jones (Did Not Participate)
    • LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (Limited Participation)
    • DE William Hayes (Limited Participation)
    • T Jake Long (Limited Participation)
    • DE Eugene Sims (Limited Participation)

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Rams Pass Rush vs. Matt Cassel and the Minnesota Offensive Line

    The Minnesota Vikings gave up an alarming 44 sacks in 2013, which does not bode well for Minnesota considering St. Louis boasts, perhaps, the most intimidating pass rush in the entire NFL. 

    The threat of the pass has to be present before the Vikings can rely on the run, or else the Rams will simply stack the box all afternoon. If the Minnesota offensive line cannot contain Chris Long and Robert Quinn, things could get ugly. 

    Also, it'll be interesting to see if the historically average Matt Cassel is capable of making the big throws with serious pressure in his face. The Rams have beaten better quarterbacks than Cassel into submission in the recent past, so this is surely a concern for the Vikings. 

     

    Rams Defense vs. Adrian Peterson

    Obviously, the biggest concern for the Rams is containing Peterson, who racked up more than 200 yards on the ground the last time he ran against the St. Louis defense in 2012. 

    Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers was a first-round selection in 2012 and is a popular candidate for a breakout year. The Rams need Brockers to stuff the middle and make life difficult for Peterson. If Brockers is ready to reach the next level, this is a great opportunity to prove it. 

     

    Will Shaun Hill Make an Immediate Statement? 

    With Sam Bradford done for the year, the Rams will lean on veteran Shaun Hill. Hill has been a very capable backup in the past, but he has yet to prove he's a viable option as a 16-game starter. 

    If Hill can make a statement and have an incredible performance against the Vikings, it would do wonders for this team. Not only would it provide the Rams with a boost of confidence, but it would prove that they are capable of winning without Bradford at the helm. 

Prediction

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    Joe Skipper/Getty Images

    Season openers are a nightmare for Las Vegas or for anyone attempting to predict the outcome of games. Teams are well-rested and totally confident, which means any outcome is possible, regardless of how lopsided the matchup appears on paper. 

    For the Rams, Peterson is the only truly dangerous factor working against them. The Pro Bowl back will be fresh and healthy for Week 1, which is a frightening thought for St. Louis. 

    Still, Peterson is two years removed from his memorable MVP campaign. He's undoubtedly an elite NFL running back, but he'll never fully return to that 2012 form. This isn't the same player who posted 212 rushing yards against the Rams two seasons ago. 

    As for the quarterbacks, this is one of the few games where St. Louis arguably has the upper hand. Cassel has proved time after time that he's a mediocre starter in this league. He appeared in nine games for Minnesota in 2013 and finished with just 11 touchdown passes, and he averaged one interception per game. 

    Putting Cassel behind a line that allowed 44 sacks last season, and asking him to stand tall against an elite St. Louis pass rush, is a disaster in the making. 

    As mentioned, anything can happen in Week 1, and an argument can be made for either team. However, considering St. Louis also has home-field advantage, it's not hard to envision this game working in the Rams' favor. 

    Prediction: Rams 27, Vikings 19

     

    Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.