Vikings vs. Rams: What Are Experts Saying About Minnesota?

Darren PageFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2014

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Seth Perlman/Associated Press

The Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams open their seasons with a matchup primed to go to down to the wire. Both teams have hopes for a step forward in 2014 but must get off to a good start.

In making prognostications about this game, a lot depends on the prevailing opinion of Shaun Hill as the Rams quarterback. If he can step right in and lead the Rams offense without missing a beat, there’s no reason they can’t stay in, if not control the game.

On the other side, the performance of Matt Cassel will go under the microscope. He ramped up his play in the preseason after an average first season in Minnesota. The Vikings will need that to continue against an opportunistic defense.

For a few reasons, this is one of the more unpredictable games of Week 1. Minnesota has the fifth-youngest roster in the league, so few analysts truly know what to expect. They’re especially young on defense, where the most improvement is needed.

25% of the Vikings' active roster on defense is comprised of rookies.

— Ryan Riddle (@Ryan_Riddle) September 2, 2014

The sheer number of question marks on the field in this game is astounding. How do Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin raise their play from a year ago? How big of an impact do rookies like Anthony Barr and Aaron Donald make in their first showings? What kind of quarterback is Shaun Hill having not started since 2010? A lot of these questions take guesswork.

Let’s check in with the best guesses of ESPN’s expert pickers first.

ESPN Expert Picks: Vikings vs. Rams
Eric AllenVikings
Mike GolicVikings
Merril HogeRams
Ron JaworskiRams
KC JoynerVikings
Chris MortensenRams
Adam SchefterRams
Mark SchlerethRams
Seth WickershamRams
Tom JacksonVikings
Keyshawn JohnsonVikings
Mike DitkaRams
Cris CarterRams

St. Louis is given the majority of picks from ESPN. At eight to five, the Rams are still hardly the decisive favorite. ESPN reporter Ben Goessling had this to say in his Vikings predictions:

This is a tough opening for the Vikings' offense, against a talented Rams defense with a pass rush that could give the Vikings' offensive line trouble in the Edward Jones Dome. But with Sam Bradford out -- and former Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill likely to start in his place -- the Vikings should be able to grind out a victory in their opener. Prediction: Win

The CBS expert pickers come out with an even split in their picks of this game.

CBS Expert Picks: Vikings vs. Rams
Pete PriscoRams
Jason La CanforaRams
Will BrinsonVikings
Josh KatzowitzVikings
Ryan WilsonVikings
John BreechRams
Dave RichardVikings
Jamey EisenbergRams

That moves the total number of picks to a 12-9 tally in the Rams' favor. This falls even closer in line with the notion that nobody truly knows what the outcome will be.

Finally, let's see what some of Bleacher Report's own think about this matchup.

Bleacher Report Expert Picks: Vikings vs. Rams
Matt MillerVikings
Michael SchotteyRams
Mike FreemanVikings
Ty SchalterRams
Matt BowenRams
Zach KruseVikings

The Rams keep their edge of three picks on the Vikings after an even split from this group. The split between picks stays consistent among all three sites surveyed, showing just how divided opinions are at this point.

St. Louis' slight edge is felt on the sports books as well, where they are three-point favorites. Being on their home turf could certainly be enough to push the Rams over the edge. A road win would be Minnesota's first since December 2012, so Vikings fans are about to find out what the Mike Zimmer era is going to be all about.