Not since 1995 when the Dallas Cowboys lost at home to the Washington Redskins has a 17-point underdog won an NFL game outright, but that’s exactly what the Buffalo Bills did when they crushed the Minnesota Vikings 27-6 in Week 3. And to add insult to injury, they did it in Minnesota.
The Vikings defense allowed the Bills to score 27-points by halftime, while their much-touted offense couldn’t score until the end of the fourth quarter, and even then couldn’t manage the 2-point conversion. With a record of 1-1-1, the Vikings are now tied for second in the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers and are desperate to prove the Bills loss was a fluke.
The 3-0 Los Angeles Rams, on the other hand, are well on top of the NFC West, but keep in mind who they’ve beaten so far. In Week 1 it was the winless Oakland Raiders, 33-13, in Week 2 it was the winless Arizona Cardinals, 34-0 and in Week 3 it was the 1-2 Los Angeles Chargers, 35-23.
That’s not to say that the undefeated Rams and their third-year quarterback aren’t a force to be reckoned with – their offense is currently ranked 3rd in the league and their defense is ranked 6th – but who knows how either will hold up against Minnesota’s 10th ranked defense and 14th ranked offense, especially with the fire the Vikings will bring after their embarrassing Week 3 whooping.
Who’s favored to win this Week 4 Vikings-Rams matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Vikings and the Rams and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Vikings offense unbalanced
Minnesota’s offense is ranked 14th in the league, but that number is slightly deceiving. The Vikings’ passing attack is ranked fourth in the league, coincidentally tied with the Los Angeles Rams. Both teams have managed to put up 305.7 passing yards per game, although the Vikings have only managed to score 19.7 points per game, whereas the Rams’ offense averages 34.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has had a strong 2018 so far – he’s ranked second in the league in total passing yards (965), second in total number of completions (95) and has only thrown 2 interceptions to his 7 touchdowns. His passer rating is a respectable 98.9.
Where the Vikings’ offense struggles is with their running game, ranked 31st in the NFL.
Between the injured running back Dalvin Cook, who sat out Week 3 because of a hamstring injury, and the underperforming Latavius Murray, the Vikings backfield has run for an average of 66.0 yards per game. Only the Arizona Cardinals have done worse.
Cook says he will definitely be returning for this matchup.
The 2018 Rams offense: still Goff and Gurley good
The Rams have the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NFL and have put up an average of 34 points per game.
There two main reasons for that are 23-year-old quarterback Jared Goff, whose passer rating is 111.0, and 24-year-old All-Pro running back Todd Gurley. Talk about consistent production.
Against the Raiders in Week 1, Goff threw for 233 yards on 18/33 with 2 TDs and no interceptions while Gurley ran 20 times for 108 yards while catching 3 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Against the Cardinals in Week 2, Goff threw for 354 yards on 24/32 for a touchdown and an interception, while Gurley ran 19 times for 42 yards and 3 touchdowns while catching 9 balls for 102 yards.
Against the Chargers in Week 3, Goff threw for 354 yards on 29/36 for three touchdowns and an interception, while Gurley ran 23 times for 105 yards and a touchdown while catching 5 balls for 51 yards.
Goff’s targets, wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, All-Rookie Cooper Kupp and company, have combined for 439.3 passing yards per game, which ranks them third in the league.
In their first three games, the Rams’ offense has converted 20 of their first downs – only two teams have done better, and the Vikings aren’t one of them.
Vikings Defense ranks 10th in the league, Rams D ranks 6th
Though both defenses are ranked overall in the top ten, there’s one stat that tells the biggest difference between the two squads:
Points allowed per game.
The Vikings have allowed opponents to score an average of 24.0 points per game, which ranks them in the middle of the league at 17th. The Rams have only allowed opponents an average of 12.0 points per game, and no other team has allowed less.
The Vikings have the edge over the Rams when it comes to quarterback sacks. Los Angeles has only sacked opposing quarterbacks 4 times (ranked 28th), thanks in part to defensive tackle Michael Brockers (1.0) and linebacker Samson Ebukam (1.0).
Minnesota has a total of 10 sacks, tied for third best in the league, with defensive end Danielle Hunter responsible for 3.0 of those and All-Pro safety Harrison Smith with 2.0 of his own.
The Vikings started the season off with placekicker Daniel Carlson, but he was let go after missing three field goals (35-, 48- and 49-yarders) against divisional rival Green Bay Packers, including a potential game-winner as the clock expired in overtime. What makes it even more painful is that the Vikings had traded up to get Carlson in this year’s draft.
The Vikings quickly signed former Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, a veteran who made 88.2 percent of his field goals (186-of-211) during his eight-year run with the Cowboys and is considered one of the most accurate place kickers in the history of the NFL.
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein suffered a groin injury during Week 2 pregame warm-ups and the injury is expected to keep him out a few weeks, so the team has signed Sam Ficken.
Ficken missed his only field goal attempt against the Chargers in Week 3, a 46-yarder, but made all five PATs.
Vikings-Rams prediction and odds
The oddsmakers have the Rams favored to beat the Vikings by 6.5 with an over/under of 49.
CBSSports.com’s final score prediction: Rams 27, Vikings 17.