Rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will get a chance to rebound after the Vikings' dreadful performance in a loss to Green Bay last Thursday.
The Vikings passing game has been suspect all season — it won't get any better now that coach Brad Childress has jettisoned the team leader in touchdown receptions (Marcus Robinson) — and the Rams' pass defense is eighth in the NFL.
But the Rams are next to last in the league against the run, meaning it could be a big day for running back Chester Taylor. Taylor has been quiet in the past two games but this could be his chance to finish the season with a bang.
The Vikings would be wise to at least create the perception that they can throw the ball early in the game so they can set-up the run. If that doesn't happen, the Rams will stack the box as so many teams have done before.
The Vikings defense, meanwhile, could be in for a long day against the pass. Minnesota has fallen to last in the NFL against the pass and the Rams are No. 4 in passing offense with quarterback Marc Bulger leading the way.
It won't matter that the Vikings run defense is dominant if Bulger can sit back and pick apart the Minnesota secondary all day.
The Vikings rank last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and will be without CBs Fred Smoot and Cedric Griffin Sunday. One reason teams pass on the Vikings so much is because they rank first against the run, allowing just 54.5 yards a game and 2.6 yards per attempt. Even though they have given up a lot of yards, their opponent's passer rating is a very respectable 71.4. The Rams are expected to still try and run, while knowing the passing matchups can be exploited.
Defensively, while Vikings RB Chester Taylor will get his yards, the Rams have to make enough stops to force rookie Tarvaris Jackson into passing situations.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Rams interior line vs. Vikings DTs Pat and Kevin Williams — Pat Williams is listed as 317 pounds, which might be his weight from the waist up. Rams Gs Mark Setterstrom and Richie Incognito, along with C Brett Romberg have been very good run blocking in recent weeks. This will be their biggest challenge.
The Vikings will be very thin at cornerback with Cedric Griffin and Fred Smoot out. Antoine Winfield will start at left corner, and either Charles Gordon or Ronyell Whitaker will start on the right side. Whichever one doesn't start will play in nickel situations. Newcomer Michael Hawkins also could see action, although he will have to be a quick study.
The Rams enter the season finale in good health. Against the Minnesota running game, one question will be how effective DE Victor Adeyanju will be with a new cast on his right arm.