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There’s finally a marquee Thursday Night Football game! The Rams and Vikings square off in a battle of the NFC’s elite. The Vikings are coming off an historic loss to the Bills, and the Rams look like a juggernaut. This game won’t be another Rams rout though. The Vikings are still coming together as a team, and they are built to beat a team like the Rams. The Vikings have a front four that can take over any game in the trenches. Last season, the Vikings shut down the Rams because they won the trench battle. This year, the Rams line is a bit deeper and that could be the deciding factor after a short week.

The Vikings already had a deep D-line, but during the off-season they added former Seahawk Sheldon Richardson. Richardson, like Muhammad Wilkerson of the Packers and Ndamukong Suh of the Rams, is on a one year deal. He isn’t just playing for a ring, but for a chance at a long term deal elsewhere. He joins a line that already has Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, and Brian Robison. The front four runs deep, and when they’re on, they make the rest of Mike Zimmer’s vaunted defense almost unstoppable. Luckily, the Rams’ offensive line has gotten better despite not adding any major pieces in the off-season.

The Rich Get Richer

Last season, the Vikings brutalized the Rams’ line and caused the offense to sputter. Todd Gurley got shut down and Jared Goff‘s timing was off and all of a sudden the Rams couldn’t move the ball well at all. Now that the line has had another year under offensive line guru Aaron Kromer, they look a lot better than they did last year. That shows up the most in the run game, where the Rams are averaging 4.3 yards a play, which is third in the league. Andrew Whitworth seems to have found the fountain of youth since joining the Rams, and newly extended Rob Havenstein is growing into one of the better tackles in the game. They should also have starting guard Jamon Brown back after serving a two game suspension. Even if they don’t, Aaron Neary has filled in quite nicely.

Looking Ahead

If they can dominate their side of the trenches, the offense should continue to move like Furiosa’s War Rig. Goff looks even more comfortable than he did last year. Even when his protection has broken down, he’s demonstrated much more poise. The Rams also are more balanced at running back, and Gurley won’t have to shoulder everything as Malcolm Brown has been able to give Gurley a break. Both backs have proven that they are decent pass protectors as well. They can also lean on tight end Tyler Higbee to provide extra blocking, and he’s been more involved in the offense this season.

Last season, the Vikings shut down the Rams because they won the trench battle. This year, the Rams line is a bit deeper and that could be the deciding factor after a short week.

A big hit to the Vikings front four, as defensive end Everson Griffin will not play following an incident he was involved in last weekend. They’ll still have to fend off Robison, but it still presents a more favorable match up. The short week should also benefit the Rams considering they spent their last game at home. Football is won by whomever owns the trenches, and if the Rams pull it out, they will be in the driver’s seat in the NFC.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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